The Toronto Marlies had a decisive victory against the Springfield Thunderbirds 4-2 Saturday evening. It was the first of two meetings between these teams in the season. The second will be Saturday next week when the Marlies go on a road trip through the AHL Atlantic Division.

Saturday was also Star Wars night at Coca-Cola Coliseum. My niece was in attendance, and was proud to meet colleagues from the Imperial Navy.

Marlies Lines Saturday

The obvious lineup change is that Rasmus Sandin is finally back! After sustaining an elbow injury at the World Junior Championship, Sandin finally returned to the ice for a game on Saturday. More on his game later.

Maple Leafs acquire goalie Michael Hutchinson

The Thunderbirds had Sam Montembeault in net, who has been their number one starter most of the season. The Marlies started Michael Hutchinson who played for the Thunderbirds earlier this season until the Leafs acquired him from the Florida Panthers organisation in trade for a draft pick.

The Game

The Thunderbirds are a really aggressive team, and they aren’t afraid to get right up in the crease on an attack, even directly in the goalies face. Hutchinson said he was expecting the game to be like that. “They do make the game difficult for you by getting in front of the net and being active with their sticks,” further noting his past experience with the team helped him be ready for that, “When I was there I saw it every day in practice. I saw it in all the games that I played for them.”

The Marlies last game was on Tuesday and they lost 7-6 in OT. I wrote more about some of the players, rather than walk through all thirteen goals in the game. Let’s do the opposite for this game and take a look at the Marlies goals.

The Thunderbirds struck first only a few minutes in to the game on a play where Hutchinson stopped a shot and thought he had control of the puck, but it actually fell down beside him and the Thunderbirds got it in before he was able to realise what had happened.

The Marlies responded toward the end of the period when Gabriel Gagne picked up his first goal as a Marlies player when the Thunderbirds left him wide open to receive a pass and put it in an open net.

The aggressiveness and chippy attitude of the Thunderbirds came to a head in the second period when Vincent LoVerde engaged Paul Thompson in a fight. LoVerde was assigned an instigator penalty and the Marlies were put on a penalty kill. Adam Brooks didn’t care about that, though. He scored the first short-handed goal of his Marlies career.

A stick tap goes to Trevor Moore there for the nice pass that skipped the Thunderbirds defender trying to lie down and block it.

In the last recap I talked a fair bit about how Chris Mueller praised Jeremy Bracco as an elite playmaker, saying he moves to the dangerous scoring areas knowing that Bracco will be able to connect with him on a pass at the perfect moment to score. Here in the very next game we have a great example on the power play.

Bracco had two assists in the game, putting him back up to a point-per-game pace of 13 goals and 34 assists in 47 games.

Pierre Engvall sealed the Marlies victory over the Sith by putting the puck in the empty net.

The Thunderbirds made quite a valiant defensive effort before this goal, stopping several scoring chances from the Marlies. They also made several huge shot blocks over the course of the game, with both Matt Marcinew, and Dryden Hunt putting their bodies in front of really hard slapshots from the Marlies that made everyone in the crowd wince. They put up a good fight, but it was ultimately not enough.

After the Game

Sandin sounded genuinely happy to finally be back in games and not just practicing. “I’m a little bit tired right now. It’s a little bit different playing games compared to practice,” but he was happy with the result of the game. “I think we shut it down pretty good at the end there. I think we had a pretty good third period too.”

Sandin is still 18-years-old. His 19th birthday is on March 7th, famously making him one of the first and youngest players drafted born in the year 2000.

Despite the win, I thought at times they would have an even bigger lead if Mason Marchment were out in front of the net deflecting in some of the many shots picked out of the air by Montembeault with his glove. He was really good at that, even if it was through traffic. Unfortunately, it’s still going to be weeks until he is back from his collar bone injury.

Next Game

The Marlies play again today against the Belleville Senators. Yes, it’s them again. It should be a fun tilt given how the Marlies just lost to them 7-6 in OT last Tuesday. At least this is the last time they will face the Senators until Monday March 11th at Scotiabank Arena, which is the fist day of the March Break for the TDSB.

Keefe indicated Timothy Liljegren would not return for Sunday’s game.

Here’s the Game in Six video.