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Recap: Marlies lose to the Amerks 5-2

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Brooks Laich makes his Marlies debut as the team goes on their first road trip of the year.

Christian Bonin | TSGphoto.com

Before the recap, catch up on what has been going on in the AHL so far this season.

Marlies Roster Moves and News

On Thursday, the Marlies sent goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo and defender Nikolas Brouillard to Orlando. The Solar Bears have a game on Saturday and then have four days off before a three in three beginning on Thursday. There should be a chance in there for lots of practice time, and for both players to get in a game.

On Wednesday, Kristen Shilton of TSN asked Sheldon Keefe his plans for Brooks Laich. Laich had been sent down to the Marlies at the start of the season, but had not been played in a game so far.

Keefe's answer was a masterful evasion, so that situation remained unclear, but when the lines appeared for tonight’s game, Laich was on the list as the fourth line centre.

Stats and Standings

It is way too early to look at the standings, but when the team is on top, it is hard to resist. Heading into tonights action, the Marlies led their division, tied with the Syracuse Crunch and the Albany Devils with two wins and no losses. The Crunch have an identical goals for and against record as well, so it is too soon to plan the Calder Cup parade.

The Marlies won both their opening games against Utica with scores of 5-2.

Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic were third and fourth in the AHL in points, each with one goal and four assists, so the decider seems to be the alphabet at the moment. Andreas Johnsson's three goals had him in 16th place, so the Marlies began the night with three players in the top 20.

Colin Greening was tied with Johnsson in points with one goal and two assists, and the pair of rookie defenders, Andrew Nielsen and Travis Dermott have multiple points as well.

Garret Sparks' .931 save percentage and Antoine Bibeau's .905 had both of them in the top 20 as well.

AHL News

Last summer, the AHL introduced new rules designed to curb fighting. The rules calls for an automatic suspension of one game for the 10th fighting major and then for every fight after that to 13. After the 14th, the suspension is two games. However, if the opposing player is determined to be an instigator the fight doesn't go on the suspension counter.

At the time, it was not made clear if that instigator ruling could or should be changed after the fact. The Albany Devils think it should be. They announced their intention to question a ruling from last weekend:

Andrew MacWilliam received a game misconduct during Saturday’s 5-2 win against St. John’s because he participated in two fights — that rule dates back to the 2014-15 season. Now the Devils’ alternate captain only has eight fights remaining with 74 games remaining.

However, the Devils are going to appeal and say that IceCaps forward Bobby Farnham instigated the second altercation.

“We’re going to look at trying to get one of those rescinded because of a potential instigator,” Kowalsky said. “MacWilliam definitely didn’t want to fight. Guys actually sought him out and the instigator rule actually says ‘distance traveled.’ The Farnham one, certainly; we watched it on video, he went out, went around the net.”

As the season progresses, we should expect many teams will want to keep their players in the game, fights or no fights, so expect more appeals and complaints about calls. Of course, there is another way MacWilliam could avoid a suspension.

The Rochester Americans

The Amerks are home to a young rookie with a familiar last name who scored his first pro goal last weekend. Alex Nylander has three points in three games so far.

The team has been scoring well enough with nine goals in those three games, but they've allowed 14 which had to be a concern with the way the Marlies can score.

Buffalo had called up some Amerks to fill out their injury plagued roster, but three returned for this game, giving them a fighting chance. They also have a handful of young prospects not quite as stellar as Nylander, so they are trending much younger than they were.

Rochester also signed a familiar face to a PTO, Brady Vail, former Orlando Solar Bear (with six games as a Marlie) made his debut tonight for the team.

The Game

The Marlies Lineup

Rychel Smith Johnsson

Leipsic Froese Lindberg

Soshnikov Gauthier Kapanen

Greening Laich Timashov

Nielsen Campbell

Valiev Holl

Dermott Loov

Sparks

Bibeau

The Amerks Lineup

Period One

The Marlies started out the game acting out a scene from a comedy where they all pile in the car and then realize no one knows where they’re going. After some batting the puck around, they figured out where the Rochester net was and started heading towards it. Occasionally.

The Marlies penalty kill, while effective, was indicative of their entire play in the period. They did just enough to thwart the opposition, but they never managed to clear the puck.

The highlight of the period was Kapanen getting caught over handling the puck and paying for it by watching Nylander streak up the ice with it. But it was that other Nylander, so he was going the wrong way.

The score was 0-0 at the end of the first.

Period Two

The second period opened a lot more uptempo, as if Keefe had calmly and quietly mentioned in the intermission that there are a lot of players on the roster and he could ice a completely different team on Saturday if he felt like it.

Freddie Gauthier responded with some speed, carried the puck up the ice and set up Kapanen for a beauty of a goal to make it 1-0. Rinat Valiev with the second assist.

The Amerks helped keep things going by taking two penalties, one right after Kapanen’s goal. There was even a bit of a shoving match, and the Marlies woke up. Fighting, particularly staged fights, often seem like a cheap and ineffective way to get a team going. But an energy player, stirring up something might have come in handy midway through the period.

There were chances in the period—Colin Smith had a look at an open net, but the Amerks blocked it, and Johnsson had a golden opportunity that rang off the post. Brendan Leipsic was also very noticeable getting offensive chances.

The Marlies tried to keep things uptempo, and the Amerks responded, and suddenly the Marlies were heading for the box. They took one penalty, then two and then two at a time. A tripping call while on the power play will not be the best thing Viktor Loov will ever do to keep from sliding down the depth chart.

Taylor Fedun scored to make it 1-1, and in the last minutes of play, Hudson Fasching picked up the puck near the Amerks’ blue line while the Marlies weren’t controlling it well and went off alone to seek his fortune. He found his first AHL goal.

2-1 Amerks after two. Shots on goal were 22-12 for the Marlies, 15-9 in the second period.

Period Three

The very end of the second period saw the Marlies take a too many men on the ice penalty, so they started on the penalty kill. The Amerks started with a goal tipped in off of another Fedun rocket of a shot through traffic.

3-1 Amerks.

Immediately after, Sparks bailed out Andrew Campbell after a brutal giveaway to Fasching, who couldn’t convert.

Kerby Rychel tried his luck on a breakaway, but no dice for him either. The period was only two minutes old and everything was happening. Rychel was notable as a physical presence, and his line looked very dangerous. This was Johnsson’s best period of even-strength play so far.

Just shy of five minutes in, Campbell let off a rocket of his own that was redirected in by Byron Froese, and it was a game again at 3-2 Amerks. The goal was created by the Marlies digging out the puck in the corner with some good forechecking. Leipsic with the secondary assist.

The Marlies were obviously the better team at five-on-five, but they struggled to maintain control of the puck in their own zone. While they could easily steer the Amerks away when they tried to drive the net, they couldn’t convert that into a possession change and a zone exit.

Johnsson took a penalty when he couldn’t skate fast enough to stop an odd man rush, and the Marlies responded with an intensely aggressive penalty kill leading to two short-handed breakaways that failed to bear fruit.

And, as it goes sometimes, the Amerks scored immediately after on a rocket from the point through traffic. Casey Nelson with the goal in his first AHL game. 4-2 Amerks.

The Marlies tried to find some jump and score their way out of this mess they’d got themselves in by taking penalties, but they ended up with one more penalty when Valiev was careless with his stick. The aggressive penalty kill was back, but all they did was eat the clock for the Amerks.

The Amerks held on and popped one in the empty net to make the score 5-2 again, just not for the Marlies this time. Shots were 36-21 for the Marlies, and they only allowed one even-strength goal. Linus Ullmark was excellent in net for the Amerks.

Brooks Laich

He was largely unnoticeable after a decent play off of the opening faceoff. He finished the night with one shot on goal, and had no foot speed to keep up with a team of mostly young Buffalo prospects and a few veterans. Worse than that, he rendered Colin Greening and Dmytro Timashov less of a threat on the fourth line.

He is a great person, and has a lot of skill at the game, enough that he could handle preseason action in a depth role. But Freddie Gauthier looked better in the NHL, and he was in the AHL tonight too. So was Byron Froese. It’s a tough thing to have to face, but it looks like it might be over for Laich.

The Weekend

The Marlies come home to play two games against the Manitoba Moose on Saturday at 5 pm and Sunday at 3 pm.

Manitoba has an NHL level backup in goal some nights when Ondrej Pavelec gets a start. He’s had one excellent game and one forgettable one so far. The team is not the most skilled in the AHL, but they have a few interesting young rookies and old hands who were rookies last year like Jack Roslovic, Chase de Leo, Nic Petan and Brendan Lemieux.

Highlights