Wednesday night was the Marlies fourth game of the season against the Crunch and the first they would lose.
The Marlies starting lines were quite similar to Sunday, with only the swap of Brooks for Bracco, and Marincin for LoVerde.
Andreas Johnsson - Miro Aaltonen - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Trevor Moore
Kerby Rychel - Frederik Gauthier - Colin Greening
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Ben Smith
Travis Dermott - Timothy Liljegren
Calle Rosen - Martin Marincin
Andrew Nielsen - Justin Holl
Scratches: Paliotta, Valiev, Clune, LoVerde, Bracco
The game quickly got physical, more so than the Marlies have recently seen. Dermott dished out the first big hit of the game. Dermott is still looking for his first goal and he is taking shots, though they are naturally low danger shots through traffic from back toward the blue line. It’s especially unlikely when there’s no one in front of the net to deflect the puck, as was often the case in this game.
Justin Holl had a scoring opportunity after a comical series of broken sticks and flubs by the Crunch, but it was deflected up into the netting and out of play.
The Crunch would pick up the first goal of the game off a really fast rush which caught the Marlies by surprise while they were making a change.
Nielsen had a bouncy puck shot that caught Moore's stick for a moment, but the Crunch goalie, Louis Domingue, was all over it. He still loves to play the puck, but seems to have dialed it down a bit this game, not going on as many adventures.
Johnsson had an early opportunity to score with one of those moments where the puck is in front of simply sitting open in front of the net and time slows to a crawl while you wonder what will happen next. Unfortunately, Domingue got it.
The most talked about moment of the game happened next. Timashov and the Crunch’s Andrew Walcott got tangled up on the boards at the Marlies bench and Walcott fell onto Timashov. There’s no great video of exactly how the next sequence of events kicked off, and it was on the side of the arena I was not able to see directly, but it appears Nielsen took major offence to what Walcott did to Timashov and jumped in to start a fight.
Walcott, who had earlier served a penalty for boarding, seemed to not be sure what was happening while Nielsen had already dropped the gloves and was punching him. Nielsen sort of falls on top of him, and Walcott was injured badly enough to require the paramedics attention. He was taken out on a back brace, though there are reports his leg was iced up. Whatever happened, he left the game and did not return.
Nielsen was given a series of penalties, including the rare add-on of the Aggressor rule.
You can follow through the attached link above which has a video and judge for yourself, but Marlies Coach Sheldon Keefe certainly did not agree with the extra penalty when asked for comment after the game. “Nielsen obviously gets one glove off, and throws... I don’t even know if you could call it a punch. To me, that’s four minutes for roughing.”
We will advise if there is any supplemental discipline. There is no update yet on Walcott.
In any case, Nielsen was gone, the Marlies had a five minute penalty to kill, and the game continued. Dermott appeared to be picking up some of the slack with Nielsen gone. The Crunch scored their second of the game about two seconds after the end of penalty.
The period closed out in a comparatively unremarkable way, though Liljegren dazzled, showing off some great moves and puck handling which also generated a scoring chance. Domingue again stopped it.
Speaking of Liljegren, he was instrumental in the Marlies third period comeback attempt, setting up Gauthier who picked up his first of the season on the power play.
That Crunch penalty was the only one of the period, perhaps because everyone wanted to keep the game now focused on hockey after the events earlier in the game.
Though, perhaps not Kapanen. He landed an uncharacteristically big hit—which was clean and legal—to Adan Erne, which also knocked him out of the game.
There was some momentum building for the Marlies, but Domingue had shut the door. Down one goal, Keefe pulled Sparks with about 80 seconds to go, but there the game quickly ended with the Crunch scoring on the empty net.
Post-game, Keefe commented on the Nielsen incident noting it may have been over penalized. “It’s a scrum. Nielsen obviously gets one glove off, and throws... I don’t even know if you could call it a punch. To me, that’s four minutes from roughing.” Keefe believed the injury to Walcott was accidental and not directly related to Nielsen’s actions. “Maybe they reacted to the injury. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the actual altercation.”
When asked if overconfidence was a factor in the loss, Sparks believed it was not, and, if anything, his teammates were actually over-complicating their game. "I think we're just so good that guys feel they have this ability to make unbelievable plays every play, and they do, but sometimes you can just make the simple hockey play too."
Keefe added he believes the Crunch are underrated. “It’s a much better team than what the record shows. We’ve played them four times now and, if they haven’t outplayed us all four, they’ve certainly been right there.
The Marlies face the Senators at Yardmen Arena in Belleville on Friday night.