The Maple Leafs and Habs rivalry has always extended down through the ranks to the AHL. From their time as the Bulldogs in Hamilton, to the IceCaps in St. John’s, you could count on fans of both teams showing up to games and some good battles on the ice.

A new chapter of this AHL rivalry began last night with the first visit to Ricoh Coliseum by the Laval Rocket. While the Canadiens’ affiliation moved again, the rivalry stayed the same.

This game had the added wrinkle of a few ex-Marlies now playing for the other side. Last year’s sometime scoring leader Byron Froese, Peter Holland, and David “Brolldozer” Broll were all on the ice playing for the Rocket.

Marlies Forward Lines
Kerby Rychel - Miro Aaltonen - Andreas Johnsson
Dmytro Timashov - Marcel Mueller - Trevor Moore
Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Ben Smith

Defensive Pairings
Calle Rosen - Andrew Nielsen
Travis Dermott - Vincent LoVerde
Rinat Valiev - Justin Holl

In net: Calvin Pickard

Scratched: Paliotta, Liljegren, Marincin, Clune, Bracco

First Period

The Rocket got off to a fast start, getting the puck in the Marlies’ zone quickly and setting up the first scoring chance of the game against Pickard. It didn’t last long, though.  By the second minute of the game the Marlies returned the favour and were on the offensive.

The Marlies picked up the first power play opportunity. The main unit for this and through most other PP situations in the game was comprised of Timashov, Aaltonen, Mueller, Rychel, and Rosen on defence.

A simple misstep passing the puck led to the first goal of the game, a shorthanded one by Laval. It was embarrassing, but, based on their performance the rest of the game, I don’t feel that line had a major issue.

Much like at the start of the game, the Marlies would respond quickly with a goal by Mason Marchment; his fourth this season.

That kind of offensive dominance by the Marlies in the offensive zone was a big part of the reason the Rocket spent the first 17 minutes of the game with only a single shot on goal. Soshnikov’s line did a great job tying up the Rocket in their zone. Soshnikov himself had 6 SOG in the game.

Rychel made some great plays, including picking off the puck from the Rocket in the attacking zone and setting up a scoring chance; Aaltonen setting up Marchment; and Brooks setting up Smith.

It was Mueller who would get the next goal on a power play with this amazing shot that started with a puck deflected off the glass behind the net winding up right on his stick.

Second Period

The Rocket got off to a quick start with a goal by Jordan Boucher, his first ever AHL goal, after a few missteps by the defense who were a step behind the play.

Both Marchment and Timashov created some scoring chances before both Dermott and Froese went to the box for simultaneous slashing calls. Gauthier looked great keeping control on the ensuing 4-on-4, but neither side was able to score.

The Marlies had two more power play chances in the period but couldn’t convert them into goals. Greening also chipped in with a nifty drop pass play leading to a nice pass setup of a shot from the opposite side of the ice but Lindgren shut it all down.

Third period

After a big save against Daniel Audette on a breakaway, Pickard then allowed the third and final goal of the game for Laval with the Marlies defence pair Nielsen and Rosen way back watching it happen.

The Marlies were soon hemmed in their zone as Laval started taking control of the game, preventing the breakouts at even-strength. Nielsen took a penalty for slashing, but Pickard made great saves on the following PK, keeping the Marlies in the game.

The Marchment-Mueller-Smith line cranked up the pressure on the Rocket in the final few minutes of the game. Rychel came close to scoring on one shot, but the Marlies would wind up losing this first game of the new chapter of the rivalry.

Post-Game, Coach Sheldon Keefe summarized the loss as a recurring issue with a lack of offence. “We haven’t generated much at even strength offensively, and that shows up in a game like today.” Adding “You don’t win hockey games when you only score two,” and that the two goals scored were both on the power play (one just after end of a PP).

Up Next

The Marlies are vacating Ricoh Coliseum for a few weeks to make way for the Royal Winter Fair. They visit Laval on Wednesday for a rematch, then swing through Pennsylvania for the weekend. The road trip ends with stops in Binghmaton, NY the following weekend.

Pickard has been through long road trips before. “We had a long one last year, through New York, Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto.” He added he is looking forward to the opportunity to spend the time with his new teammates in that environment. “It’s good for me to get to know everybody, and continue the relationship building.”

The Marlies are back at Ricoh Coliseum to face the Crunch on November 18 and 19.