Before the game on Saturday, the Marlies made some roster moves. They'd sent Eric Baier, Éric Faille and Jack Rodewald back to the Orlando Solar Bears a few days before, and they called Faille back up on Saturday. There's no word how much progress he made through a snow storm that rerouted flights and cancelled games in both the AHL and the NHL, but Faille is somewhere in transit.
The Marlies also announced that they had signed David Kolomatis to an AHL contract. Kolomatis is a 26-year-old American, right-shooting defenceman who has had a strong AHL career that's taken some unusual turns. Twenty-five seems to be the year of great changes in a hockey career. You're either going up or you move laterally.
Kolomatis, a former member of the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL, was drafted by the Kings and played for their AHL team, the Manchester Monarchs, along with Rich Clune and Andrew Campbell. He had extremely consistent results there for years, and maybe that's the problem.
In his rookie year he put up similar points to the Monarch's other top defencemen, Vyacheslav Voynov and Alec Martinez. The next year, Martinez was with the Kings, Voynov had shot up to almost double the points, and Kolomatis was just the same.
We all know how that turned out, Voynov is in the KHL, Martinez scored a storied goal that won a cup and Kolomatis, well, he's much more interesting.
He signed on to the Washington Capitals organization for a year as a free agent, maybe looking for a better opportunity, and he was just as he always was with 7 goals and 30 points in the AHL. So he went to Finland last year. It's not an uncommon thing for guys to do, particularly guys gifted with a listed height of 5'11". But it's not something that always works out.
Kolomatis struggled to score much in Finland, and he came back to America and took a job with the Manchester Monarchs again. Coming home in a way, but the Monarchs are not the King's AHL club anymore, they are the ECHL club, and the level of play has been obviously below his ability; he's scoring at twice his old AHL rate.
He will be, for the Marlies, insurance. Justin Holl, their only right-shot D, is out with an injury, so Kolomatis provides cover there, and fills a role that they are light on. He is a veteran AHL-level player who knows the game and has succeeded on one of the best teams in the league. The Leafs organization may be contemplating trading some of their defencemen, some prospects or both, and having a guy like Kolomatis, makes it all easier. Now, the Solar Bears may get to keep their captain, Baier, where they need him too.
Kolomatis is not going to excite anyone like the potential of Nikita Zaitsev has, but the team can't function without guys like him.
Saturday, January 23
The Marlies with their amazing record of 32-8-2 are now the team every other team wants to knock off like David did Goliath:
Utica came, they saw, and they...got pretty easily beat even though they controlled the play more than most Marlies' opponents.
The Marlies had chosen a lineup that put Kasperi Kapanen with Mark Arcobello and Zach Hyman as the top line, and they were very good. There's been a lot of talk lately about Kapanen and how many points he has since the WJC, but to my eye, he's been cooking since early December, and the WJC was of a piece with that, there is no cause and effect, no gold-medal bump, only a guy feeling good and showing it on the ice.
Rylan Schwartz, still up from the Solar Bears and playing on the fourth line, opened the scoring with his first AHL goal.
Arcobello added one on the power play, and Kapanen made it 3-1 before the second intermission.
Scoring effects had everyone in an iron grip in the third, and luckily for the Marlies, Garret Sparks was more on his game than he had been in the first two periods, where he'd got away with some sloppy puck handling.
The Comets made it 3-2, but Nikita Soshnikov got an empty net goal to seal the deal at 4-2, and that was the win. Not very pretty, but good enough.
Arcobello's two point night moved him to fifth in the AHL in scoring and ahead of William Nylander. T.J. Brennan was still in contention for the lead, one point out of first place. Kapanen's two points moved him up about 50 places in the points standings, and I will not be surprised if he finishes the year at least in the top 20.
The best news of the day, though, was that Connor Brown was expected to start on Sunday.
Sunday, January 24
Let's just get the important part out of the way first:
So that's Connor Brown with his first goal of the year on his second shift, and then David Kolomatis with his first goal in the AHL this year and as a Marlie and then Brown with another, and deep breath, and that was all before the first period was more than half over.
Next up T.J. Brennan got one and then made it two, which made him the AHL points leader, but wait there's more!
Leipsic got a shorthanded goal that was lovely.
And with under two minutes to play and on their fifth try at the power play because face it, the Marlies were bored, Utica busted the shutout and after two periods the score was 6-1.
In less fun news, Stuart Percy was boarded hard in the first period and did not come out for the rest of the game. The perpetrator got five and a game, which is the best way to punish that kind of crap. No fines or suspensions, take them out of the game they're in.
In between goal three and four, Utica pulled Richard Bachman for Joe Cannata, and that obviously did them no good.
Brown spent the afternoon with Findlay and Soshnikov and they were obviously delightful together. The top line of Arcobello, Kapanen and Hyman were very good too, but they just didn't need to try much after Brown and the defencemen took care of racking up all those goals.
After two, Jeremy Morin was leading the team in shots on goal, as he did in the Saturday game, but again had no points to show for it. It will come. Keep shooting, and it will come.
Utica handed Arcobello a turnover in the third, and while he might have preferred a cherry one, he skated it up the ice and made it 7-1. The rest of the game was a lot calmer with fewer penalties, and the Comets went home with an empty slingshot and Goliath alive to fight another day.
The next game is Wednesday, January 27 at 11:00am in Grand Rapids. We know who we want to play guess who's back with next, but patience is in order. Not before he's ready.