On Saturday Afternoon, I travelled down the QEW to the Ricoh Coliseum to watch Toronto Marlies take on the Rochester Americans. Sadly due to scheduling conflicts (and Florida) the opportunity to get a visual on the Marlies hasn’t happened as much as I would’ve liked this season. Grasp the opportunities when they come my friends.
Onto the final home game of the Marlies Season and a SOLD OUT Ricoh Coliseum ! (attendance 7851)
Your Toronto Marlies are currently hanging onto the final playoffs position in the “Western Conference” (yes, Western) being two points up on the Milwaukee Admirals with two games in hand. The opponents for the afternoon, the Rochester Americans are playing out their season, but can always play spoiler and I know that is exactly what my mentality would be in a similar situation.
Toronto opened the scoring on a goal by Matt Frattin. Frattin played a solid game and looks to be that guy who excels at the AHL level and just cannot make the next step to the NHL. Will always be a good depth player for the organization, he skates well, takes the body and really does have an NHL shot.
One of the main reasons for making the trip, scored the next Marlie goal, to put them up 2-0. Brendan Leipsic is a diminutive forward to say the least, but does this kid ever keep his feet moving. With a goal and an assist on the afternoon, that gives Leipsic 9 points in his last 4 games. Healy will be glad to know that while we did pass over that little hero Brendan Gallagher we do have one in our system named Leipsic. Our Brendan doesn’t take many shifts off, and is constantly buzzing around the puck and the net. Will he be able to make the jump to the NHL? I am not certain but his effort level alone should put him into consideration.
Like this script was laid out perfectly for me, William Nylander scores with less than 2 seconds left in the 2nd period to make it 3-0 Marlies. I wanted the opportunity to watch Nylander away from the puck. He is engaged, but he will never be considered tenacious in his attempts to chase down a loose puck in my opinion. However this is where he stands out as well. His vision and anticipation allows William to foresee where the puck is going and sift down to that area of the ice. He looks like he is floating but not in a bad way. Nylander is smooth, that guy who makes the game look effortless. 27 pts in 33 games is pretty impressive for this 18 yr old kid, during his first year in North America.
After Rochester cut the lead to 3-1, Byron Froese re-established the three goal buffer by adding a power play marker for the hometown club (13 pts in last 10 games). If there was any doubt about a Marlies win, Connor Brown scored his 20th of the season (Leading Rookie Scorer with 20g 40a 60pts +24) into an empty net to seal the game.
My honourable mentions will go to two Marlies. First of all Antoine Bibeau who stopped 28 of 29 for the win. Positionally sound and able to eat up rebounds with the same effectiveness as Bernier. The difference between Bibeau and Bernier is most notably their size difference. I believe another year at the AHL level will be perfect for Bibeau giving him the majority of the starts will be beneficial for his growth.
Secondly, one of my favourite Marlies and future Leaf, Sammy Carrick. Sam does every little thing the correct way on the ice. He wins face-offs, he is hard on the forecheck and he isn’t afraid of the dirty work. Carrick took his man hard into the boards late in the 1st period, with the Rochester American turning into the boards Carrick filled him in. Cue Leduc (Rochester) to stand up for his fallen teammate as he engages Carrick in a fight. Bad move as Carrick fills Leduc in for his troubles. I assume that Carrick was gone for the game after a boarding major, but fret not. After serving his two majors, Sammy comes back for the 2nd period to which another Rochester player, Justin Kea drops the gloves with Carrick right off the draw. Not going to back down, Carrick and Kea have a spirited tilt with both players landing heavy punches. That will do it for the afternoon for Carrick. Three major penalties and a game misconduct for a whopping 25 PIMS. No, I do not expect this type of behaviour from Carrick every game, but it makes me more than pleased to see he is capable of standing up for himself rather than whining and hiding behind an official (second mention for Brendan Gallagher inserted here).
The remaining four games for the Marlies will be tough and are ALL on the road. First Toronto will take on Iowa this coming Tuesday and then a head to head match up with Milwaukee Admirals next Friday night with heavy playoff implications. The major factor for the Marlies is they play the final 3 games in 3 days and will be exhausted heading into the Playoffs if they can maintain their standing.
Best of luck to our Baby Leafs as they make this push for the post-season and give us fans something to cheer for.
I will do my best to get down to the Ricoh to continue with the updates.