In the AHL, a mid-week single-game road trip can be a chore more than anything else. You hop on the bus, chug off to upstate New York on a day most people are thinking about the coming football and turkey festival, and you play one game and then go back home before the Black Friday sales start.
For the Marlies this season, road games — singles, long trips through multiple cities with travel between back-to-backs, good teams, bad teams — it doesn’t seem to matter, they win them. Their record is not 9 - 2 on the road with the highest road winning percentage in the AHL.
Last night they played the Utica Comets, affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, a team suffering a little as their parent club has found uses for a lot of their best players and their former head coach. The game marked the return to the lineup of Timothy Liljegren, who has been hurt, and with the stack of defenders the Marlies had, he could be kept out until he was absolutely ready to return. Mason Marchment was also back after serving a two-game suspension.
Mason Marchment - Miro Aaltonen - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Andreas Johnsson
Kerby Rychel - Frederik Gauthier - Colin Greening
Trevor Moore - Ben Smith - Rich Clune
Travis Dermott - Timothy Liljegren
Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
Andrew Nielsen - Calle Rosen
This was the beauty, set up by Liljegren and only Aaltonen’s third goal so far:
The Marlies added four more, including two by Justin Holl, who led the team in SOG.
Timashov got what became the game winner after Utica got a late goal on Sparks, who was stellar again in net.
Okay, not the most riveting description of his goal, but probably accurate from his point of view. He’s right, they did shoot a lot, Todd Crocker noted that it was a season high number of shots on goal for.
Sheldon Keefe wasn’t impressed with the special teams, likely because that first Utica goal was a shorthanded goal, and the power play for the Marlies seemed a little less than it should be. Their penalty kill is generally excellent, however.
Rinat Valiev, who only played one game coming back from injury, was re-injured and he was out of the lineup again. Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco were left in Toronto to work with the development staff instead of joining the one-day road trip.
The Marlies score goals from every line and from the defence. Ben Smith, who leads the team in goals and points with 9 and 17 respectively is only 17th in the AHL for points, the only Marlie in the top 20.
Andreas Johnsson, who has the same points per game rate as Smith, is second with seven goals and 15 points. Mason Marchment, the now promoted Nikita Soshnikov and Dmytro Timashov have identical stat lines with five goals and seven assists each. Chris Mueller, who is a solid and reliable centre, rounds out the top group with 12 points as well.
For the defenders, who all rotate in and out of the lineup, your points per game leader is .... Timothy Liljegren with six points in 10 games. Martin Marincin is nipping at his heels with seven points in 12 games. Calle Rosen, who we don’t hear much about, is third with six assists in 11 games.
Travis Dermott is struggling with a lot of penalty minutes and only five assists in 17 games. He’s being outplayed so far this year, quite comprehensively, by Justin Holl who has three goals and five assists in 17 games.
Rinat Valiev, who has missed most of the season with injuries has only one assist and seems to be relied on strictly in a defensive role.
Garret Sparks leads the AHL with an amazing .946 save percentage. Calvin Pickard is now eighth for qualified goalies with .924.
The Marlies lead their division and are second in the AHL by points percentage.
Kasimir Kaskisuo, playing for the Chicago Wolves had a bit of a disaster of a game where his team outshot the opposition by a huge margin but never scored. They lost it in overtime 2-1. Two goals on only 20 shots on goal skewered his save percentage, and he’s now sunk to the merely very good range in the AHL.
Eric Fehr has played three games for San Diego, all against Tucson, the top team in the west. He has two goals so far.
The Marlies host the B-Sens, where the B now stands for Belleville, this weekend. The first game on Saturday afternoon is at the ACC, and the second on Sunday late afternoon is at Ricoh Coliseum. You will find both of those games on Leafs TV and we will have coverage for you as well.