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The Rocket didn’t go off in the Marlies’ first visit to Laval

Andreas Johnsson is starting the season where he left off last year. Watch him score two goals in Laval.

Andreas Johnsson from the last time the Marlies met the Rocket.
Christian Bonin/

The Royal Winter Fair has moved into Ricoh Coliseum, so the Marlies are on the road for six games. Their first stop was Laval, home of the Rocket, the newly reinvented affiliate of the Montréal Canadiens.

The Marlies have a packed-full roster on defence this season and enough forwards to allow for some rotation as the grind of games goes on. With no roster limits in the AHL, “healthy scratch” does not have to mean anything bad, and the challenge for the Marlies is getting their defensive prospects enough minutes. The luxury of the AHL, particularly a team absolutely stacked with players on NHL contracts, is that no one is rushed either. No one is ground down by the grind.

For the Laval game, the lineups looked like this:

Kerby Rychel - Miro Aaltonen - Andreas Johnsson

Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Trevor Moore

Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov

Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Ben Smith

Travis Dermott - Timothy Liljegren

Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde

Martin Marincin - Justin Holl

Garret Sparks

The Marlies have so much centre depth they’ve been able to move Ben Smith to wing with Adam Brooks to help bring Brooks along. Benefiting from that is the winger who shows up there sometimes, Mason Marchment. Marchment is the only Marlies player not on an NHL contract who was in this game.

Dhiren Mahiban has been covering the Marlies, and he had a nice feature on Marchment’s path to AHL regular status. Marchment is an undrafted AHL-contracted player who spent most of his time in Orlando last year when he was playing. With the eye of the Maple Leafs on him now — he stuck in training camp long after his fellows were on the next ice sheet over — he’s getting the benefit of everything a rich NHL team can offer. He’s an interesting study in how far hard work plus all that largess can carry a player who was never the hottest scoring forward on his team and who didn’t make the OHL until age 19.

“I just work my bag off right? Whatever happens, happens,” he said. “I was fortunate to stick around, but hopefully I can go further next year. I came up a long way so it was just nice to get the opportunity, honestly. It was just nice to get the opportunity to stay up there and learn from the big boys, learn how to play and act. Just the way they treat their bodies. Always eating the right foods.”

At the moment, Marchment is fourth on the Marlies in points and tied for second in goals, and he’s played fewer games than any of the fellows in his company at the top of the lists. Ignore the line number though, while we don’t have ice time for the AHL, this is a real “roll four lines” team, so the fourth line is not necessarily playing fourth-line minutes.

On to the game highlights!

Colin Greening, who always had a way with the IceCaps that seemed to be about more than just scoring back home in St. John’s, got the first one on the night.

Nikita Soshnikov has the first assist on that one, and he got a second assist as Andreas Johnsson scored a little later in the first period.

The Marlies led in shots on goal in all three periods and finished the game 32 - 18 for a very convincing dominating performance against a team that was expected to be a little better than they have been so far.

In the second period, Marchment set up Johnsson for his second goal of the night.

I wanted to show you the official AHL highlight so you can see the top quality that’s offered.

The score was 3-0, the second period was almost over, and it was over to Garret Sparks to just stop anything that came his way. He had a shutout recently that tied him with Antoine Bibeau for the Marlies franchise record in shutouts. If he did it again, he had the record to himself.

Sparks had five shots to stop in the third, he handled it okay. Marlies win 3-0 to start the road trip off right.

The two stars on the night:

Sparks is seventh in the AHL right now by Save Percentage with a .942, but of the top six, only Thatcher Demko has played 6 games like Sparks has. He has a .943. Sparks’ strong start this season has been a key to the Marlies’ success so far.

The Marlies play two games this weekend in Hershey (Washington Capitals) and Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers).

With only 10 games played, the Marlies are atop their division, which is really all you can ask for.