Yes it was perfect, and no not because the gratis pressbox popcorn has made a return, this reason is all about the hockey. Back to back games versus the Utica Comets this weekend was about as entertaining as you are going to get in the AHL. Two great crowds cheered on the home team on Saturday and Sunday with an announced crowd of 6756 yesterday and 7500 on the previous day.
On Saturday, Garret Sparks returned to the nets with Ray Emery backing him up. Sparks is starting to look like the goalie he was before his injury, in stopping 31 of 33 shots on the day. Rylan Schwartz opened the scoring with his first goal as a Marlies player. Schwartz (PTO) was recently brought up from the Orlando Solar Bears, where he accumulated 14 points in 11 games in the Sunshine State.
While the hottest player right now for the Marlies appears to be Brendan Leipsic, technically in the point production arena it is Mark Arcobello who scored the second goal of the day to put the Marlies up 2-0. Arcobello is skating well and making a lot of solid plays in the offensive zone. There will be some critics who say he is over handling the puck at times but that is part of the beauty of possession numbers. Including the game on Sunday, Arcobello has 9 points in his last four games. Kasperi Kapanen and Nikita Soshnikov rounded out the scoring as the Marlies went on to a 4-2 victory.
On Sunday, Connor Brown returned to game action after missing the previous 35 games due to a broken bone in his ankle. To say that Brown was energized would be an understatement. During the post-game on Saturday, Connor walked by the media scrum and said “see you in 24 hrs!” with the biggest smile on his face imaginable. Having taken time off the ice may have been the best thing for the young Marlies player as he came out of the tunnel like he was being shot out of a cannon. Connor Brown didnt waste any time getting onto the scoresheet, scoring his first of two goals just 3:44 into the contest. Coach Sheldon Keefe stated in the post game presser that he wanted to “get Connor right back into it” and played him not only on the powerplay but the penalty kill as well. Brown also led the Marlies team on Sunday, with seven shots on the Utica goaltending tandem. (Side note: Marlies team was feeding Brown to get the hat trick late on the powerplay but failed to convert due solid positional saves by Utica goalie)
Funny what happens when you get a single talented player back from injury in an already deep team. That player may bump the next guy down into a more comfortable role and in turn make the hockey team even more dangerous, and hopefully this is what will happen with the Marlies. The team speed looked so much more impressive in the second game of the weekend series, so much so that the Utica Comets werent even in the game from the onset. Hammering 4 goals passed the starting Comets goalie on 10 shots, the Marlies got fresh meat between the pipes by the twelve minute mark of the first period.
Different goalie, similar results. The Marlies dictated the speed of the game with wave after wave of offensive zone chances and when the dust had settled, the team had a 7-1 victory in front of a very raucous crowd at the Ricoh. As an aside, I will say that I the constant noise created by the fans at the small venue creates a better environment than the ACC on a nightly basis. Do yourselves a favor and get down to watch some hockey. The final shots total for game 2 were 42-29 for the home team. The only thing I would worry about, is that when the Marlies are on a feeding frenzy like they were today they give up a few odd-man rushes in the other direction. Fortunately for the team, Antoine Bibeau put on a stellar performance and the lone goal that beat the young keeper was offside by roughly two feet. No replays in the AHL or that would’ve been called back without question.
There you have it. A weekend at the Ricoh that seems so familiar this season. Dominate with speed, depth and goaltending…..rinse and repeat. GM Kyle Dubas and Sheldon Keefe have assembled a team that is closing in on an unprecedented level of success in the AHL. The team is now 34-8-2 (.795%) with gives them an 11 point lead over the next closest team in the entire league. Yes, they are that good.
Let’s Go Marlies.
- Marlies Improved to 13-0-0 when leading after one period
- Bibeau had his 15th win of the year, matching his total from all of last season
- Valiev with his 5th multi-point game of the year.
- 4th game that the Marlies have scored 7 or more goals
- TJ Brennan is now the AHL Leading scorer with 42 points.
Next Game: January 27th, 2016 @ Grand Rapid (11am…yes that is correct)