When the Manitoba Moose moved to Newfoundland to become the St. John's IceCaps, it was a nice story. The city had been without a team since the Maple Leafs moved to Toronto to become the Marlies, and they were eager for pro hockey to cheer on. It's fantastic, and they've sold out every game since.
But man, everyone tried so hard to use that "Marlies used to play in St. John's" narrative to sell a rivalry. There was no rivalry. They played in another conference, and were prospects of the Jets, a team that makes nobody feel hate until their fans shout the name of the ownership group during O' Canada. It wasn't going to happen.
This year, though? The IceCaps replaced the Hamilton Bulldogs. They're the young Habs. That's something to dislike, and a huge improvement. Another thing that makes the rivalry more fun? 22 goals in two games. Here's what went down.
Toronto @ St. John's (Friday, 3-2 OT Loss)
This game was a bit of a goaltending battle between Garret Sparks and Zach Fucale for the first half of the game. With that considered, it was pretty weird to see the game's opening goal come off of a part-luck, part-skilled one handed redirection from Charles Hudon, who beat Sparks to give his team a late second period lead. Darren Dietz added insurance in the early stages of the third, beating Justin Holl and TJ Brennan to give himself a one-on-one situation.
The Marlies didn't give up easily. Casey Bailey broke Fucale's shutout with his second of the year, and a few minutes later, Marc Arcobello ripped a one timer into the back of the net to tie things up. This sent the game to a dramatic 3-on-3 overtime, where each team created an opportunity for themselves before Fucale went full puck moving goaltender and set up Christian Thomas and Morgan Ellis for an odd man rush. Thomas didn't need the support for more than distraction, though, as he handily beat Sparks with a deadly wrister to win the game.
Toronto @ St. John's (Saturday, 9-8 OT Win)
Your best bet for this game is to click play on the video above, because if I were to detail every play through words, this post would be the length of a novel. The Marlies responded well to Charle's Hudon's ice-breaker by scoring three goals in three and a half minutes, but once the second started, followed it up with 21 minutes of misery.
Long distance, weird bounces, you name it. Antoine BIbeau had an extremely disappointing followup to a solid opening period, and as a result, the Marlies averaged a goal against every three minutes. The team that was up by two was now down by four, and only had nineteen minutes to reverse it. Mark Arcobello began the come back shortly afterwards duo of Josh Leivo and William Nylander hit it into high gear from there. Twice, Nylander put Leivo in position for plays that weren't quite tap ins, but prime goal opportunities after an extra second of effort. Sam Carrick tied the game with five minutes to go, and in overtime, Leivo and Nylander traded roles, with the Toronto's top pro prospect popping the water bottle to seal off the rally.
Fancy Stats to Date
The Marlies saw their possession numbers dip ever so slightly, with CHLStats projecting them at a 52.2% Fenwick Close through fifteen games. With that said, other teams are falling back to earth much faster, leaving Toronto in 5th league-wide, only behind Texas (Dallas), Lake Erie (Columbus), Albany (New Jersey), and Ontario (Los Angeles).
Toronto backs up it's significant lead in goals for with the 6th most shots taken per game (32.67), and place 13th in shots against (29.53). Toronto's shooting percentage has shot up to third in the league (12.3), though Saturday's game also dipped their save percentage to an 11th-seed 0.909.
Player of the Week
William Nylander is really, really good. We all knew this from the get-go, but sometimes, he shows it off to extreme levels. This weekend was a great example; he lead the team in assists, points, and shots. He took no penalties, was an even player in a weekend where the team struggled at even strength, and took over in the third period of Saturday's thriller. The 19-year-old is now second in AHL scoring, and on place for 101 points over 75 games.
Who's Hot, Who's Not?
I''ll spare you the boredom; the hot and not is basically the same as it was last week. TJ Brennan, Josh Leivo, Richard Panik, Marc Arcobello, and Casey Bailey kept racking up points and getting pucks to the net. Matt Frattin grabbed a single assist, but didn't shoot as much as his peers. There's a few others that picked up a point or two, but when you score 11 goals in two games, that's expected.
The only not's that I'll give are to Richard Clune and Antoine Bibeau, who struggled to find their groove after coming down from the Leafs. BIbeau gave up eight goals on 34 shots, with seven of the goals against coming from the latter half of that downpour. Clune had a fight and three shots, but stayed off the scoreboard.
The road trip is over! Well, by the end of the week, at least. The Marlies take on the Rochester Americans on Wednesday night (7PM), and after that, they steal they keys of Ricoh Coliseum back from the horses, cows and llamas at the Royal Winter Fair. Their first game back is also against Rochester on Saturday (5PM), before closing the weekend off against the Binghamton Senators (3PM).