Three games in Three Days. The first game on Friday night on the road. Who makes up these schedules?
Friday, October 21, 2016: The Marlies travelled down the QEW to the I90 to Rochester on Friday night to take on the ‘Muricans. Previously the Toronto Young Guns had started the season 2-0 with wins over the Utica Comets.
This Marlies team is full of skill but is currently lacking that big name that fans can identify with. Might not be too much longer before you start to hear Kasperi Kapanen as that name. Kapanen scored his second of the season in the middle frame of this game versus Rochester. After outshooting the Americans in the scoreless first period the Marlies continues to pressure the home team but Linus Ullmark stood on his head, stopping a total of 34/36 during the contest.
After three straight goals by Rochester, Byron Froese scored to cut the lead but that was as close as the Marlies would get. Totally outplayed, the Americans managed three powerplay goals on Garret Sparks (16/20) and the team left the USA USA USA and headed back to the Ricoh with a stinging defeat on their hands.
Saturday, October 22nd: A 5pm start at the Ricoh on Saturday afternoon and a shut down Gardiner (insert other jokes here), had a slow filling arena but the fans continue to make noise for a team that is still working its way to an identity.
Antoine Bibeau got the start for the Marlies between the pipes and is looking to establish himself at the go-to goalie for Head Coach Sheldon Keefe.
Brooks Laich got the scoring started by sniping a wrist shot to the top corner on a pass from Rinat Valiev. Laich, a former NHL staple, continues to work hard with the Marlies, in hopes of one day returning to the level at which he belongs. The progress of youth within the organization make that hard to do in Toronto, but I expect him to be back one day.
Brendan Leipsic scored his second of the season to make the game 2-0 and the Ricoh was jumping before the game was barely fourteen minutes old. Didn’t take long for the Moose to tie the game up with a physical style of play and general chippy hockey that they seem to bring each time they visit Toronto.
Rinat Valiev fed a crosscheck to Patrice Cormier early on in the 2nd period with led to a mediocre fight. Valiev, will need to take lessons from Clune or Maggio in this department if he is going to continue to drop the mittens because with his lack of style he is going to get hurt. Full marks for him playing with an edge.
Byron Froese scored twice (one in 2nd, and one in 3rd) to seal the victory for the Marlies and Antoine Bibeau.
Sunday, October 23rd: After splitting the first two games of the weekend, there was an interesting development in pre-game. Jeff Glass was the backup to Antoine Bibeau. Unsure on news regarding Garret Sparks but have reached out to the Marlies PR staff for an update. Will share when details emerge (if they are out already, disregard). Update: PR isn’t releasing details on Sparks at this time.
Starting back to back games for the first time this season, Bibeau is starting to gain more confidence. At 22 years old, Bibeau has the size, and positioning to be an NHL goalie but his progress seems to take two steps forward and one step back.
If Friday’s game was a disappointment, and Saturday’s was a back and forth, Sunday’s game could be described as ‘never in doubt’.
Your Toronto Marlies controlled this game from beginning to end, with Bibeau not being tested often, but making saves when he should.
Kasperi Kapanen opened the scoring just 54 seconds into the game, with an excellent shot off to the rush down the right hand wall. That is Kapanen’s 3rd goal of the season and as I said, one of the leaders of this young Marlies squad.
The home team outshot the Moose 20-7 in the second period of this game. A relentless, swarming, fast team can make even the most sound team look inept. Turnovers, mistakes and goals against are a byproduct of what the Marlies are creating this season.
Justin Holl, Colin Smith, and Byron Froese all scored before the end of the second period and all that was in doubt at that point was whether or not Bibeau would secure the shutout.
Antoine Bibeau stopped all 22 shots he faced and was named the First Star of the game, his 8th shutout of his career with the Marlies.
With Sparks being unaccounted for at this time, Bibeau looks to be the starter for the Marlies and now has a 3-0 record, with a 1.34 GAA and a sparkling (no pun intended) .945 save %.
Coach Keefe will be very pleased with efforts like this on a continual basis.
More Marlies Stats here: http://www.marlies.ca/team/IndividualStatistics.asp
Marlies play host to Providence: Wednesday, October 26th @7pm.