The Toronto Marlies fell 5-2 to the Hershey Bears and have slipped to 3-2-0 in their last five games. For the fourth time in as many games this week, the Marlies put themselves in a hole early. They were able to come back and beat Binghamton and Laval but today and on Friday the Marlies were unable to close the deficit.
Andreas Johnsson had his point streak snapped at 17 points in eight games after his assist on Miro Aaltonen’s opening goal of the game was taken away. However, Aaltonen turned it on this weekend, leading the team with five points in three games.
Andreas Johnsson - Miro Aaltonen - Dmytro Timashov
Kerby Rychel - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith
Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Trevor Moore
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Andreas Borgman - Vincent LoVerde
Rinat Valiev - Timothy Liljegren
Andrew Nielsen - Calle Rosen
The Marlies continue their goalie rotation with Garret Sparks between the pipes tonight. Calvin Pickard stopped 31 of 33 on Saturday night in a 4-2 comeback win over Laval.
Martin Marincin gets to sit in the press-box after playing the first two games of this weekend’s three in four. Justin Holl is on his way back from a face injury but is not quite ready yet. Head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that when he returns he will have to wear a full face shield.
Mason Marchment picks the pocket of a Hershey defenseman right as the faceoff goes behind the net of Pheonix Copley. Marchment uses his long reach to try and beat the goalie to the far post but is unable to hook the puck into the net. Tenacious plays that create scoring chances out of nothing like this are why Kyle Dubas and the Marlies are so high on Marchment.
Hershey forward Liam O’Brien takes a cross-checking penalty against Freddy the Goat. On the power play, Former Maple Leaf Zach Sill is skating right out of the slot as the puck gets bounced towards him. Sill tries to clear the puck but inadvertently kicks it right to Aaltonen’s stick. Aalt’s one-timer rockets between Copley’s left pad and blocker for the games opening goal.
Andreases Johnsson and Borgman initially received assists on the play. Johnsson gets the primary assist for his zone entry and Borgman for his breakout pass, but they were taken away after it was deemed Zach Sill had technically played the puck. Thanks, Zach..
Mason — aka. Zach Hyman 2.0 — Marchment goes hard into the corner on the forecheck and comes away with the puck. He dishes to Bracco who has stationed himself behind the net at the far post. Bracco one-touches a pass right to Brooks who’s shot is stopped right at the goal line by Copley’s right pad. Good chance by the kid line.
The period ends with the Marlies leading the shot battle (9-7), it was 6-1 mid-way though the period but a Timashov penalty allowed the Bears to catch up in the shot-clock. In terms of zone starts, the Marlies also controlled the majority at even-strength. Good start.
And that’s when things went wrong...
Tyler Lewington picks up the puck at the far blueline, walks down the boards and throws a shot on net. The puck gets tipped though the screen by Tyler Graovac and squeaks by Garret Sparks. Lucas Johanson gets the other assist. The third line of Greening, Gauthier, and Moore along with LoVerde and Borgman fall victim to the plus-minus on the play.
The Marlies get caught with not enough players on the far side of the ice. Calle Rosen does a full dive including a sprawling stick to stop a Hershey player who would’ve otherwise been alone on a breakaway. Rosen is able to trade a scoring chance for a centering pass. Nielsen ties up his man but through the chaos, Jeremy Langlois is able to come from behind and slide the puck under Garret Sparks. This is the third game in a row that Sparks has given up two goals.
The Marlies find themselves down once again but receive a power play courtesy of a Joe Whitney slashing penalty. The team seems to have lost all of the steam and tenacity that they possessed to start the game and now. With nothing happening on the power play, unless you want to include the Marlies actually finding a way to ice the puck, the two minutes ticks away quietly.
Sparks has been moving around a lot lately and it was very prevalent on this goal. The Hershey Bears do well to move the puck around the perimeter, set up a pass to the slot from the half-wall and early tip beats Sparks through a massive opening at his five-hole.
30 minutes into game and all of a sudden down by two goals, Sheldon Keefe decides he must change up his defense pairings. Timothy Liljegren is with Andreas Borgman, Rinat Valiev is with his second-most common partner in Vincent LoVerde, meaning Andrew Nielsen and Calle Rosen stay together on the bottom pair.
Then a weird thing happened...
With the faceoff in the Bears zone and 4:51 on the clock, Zach Sill skates over to Sparks’ end and starts poking at the ice near the Scotiabank advertisement. The ice crew steps onto the ice and starts making repairs. The referees tell both teams to head to their respective dressing rooms.
For a brief moment the entire crowd at the Air Canada Centre is confused, until the PA Announcer comes through the speakers with a message that the teams are taking an early intermission.
When the teams return, they will play a 24:51 long third period. The Marlies will need all the time they can get considering they are down two goals.
The Marlies still lead the shots battle by a margin of 22-14, but with Sparks giving up three goals on seven shots, the team finds itself in a major hole.
Third Period (sort of)
The blending of the forward group seems to be a temporary experiment, with the initial lines coming out as usual for the end of the “second period”. The defense pairs seem to have gone back to the way they were before as well with Valiev-Liljegren and Borgman-LoVerde as the top four.
Third Period (for real)
The Marlies get caught chasing the cycle, leading to Borgman missing his assignment right in front of the net. Travis Boyd gets a one-timer towards Sparks but Garret stops him with a sprawling pad save. Sparks is unable to corral the puck for a faceoff, leading to a puck-over-the-glass penalty by Dmytro Timashov.
Aaltonen saves his linemate by helping throw in some offense on the penalty kill. Aaltonen picks up the puck in his own zone, sees some pace ahead of him and takes it. With the Bears caught on a line change, Valiev jumps up on the rush and heads straight for the net. Aaltonen finds him and Valiev does not miss.
Fun side note, The Marlies attendance today was officially listed as 14,863. That is more than 14 of the Ottawa Senators’ home games.
Announced attendance at the ACC today for the Marlies game: 14,863, or more than your average Islanders, Coyotes, Canes and Panthers game.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) February 19, 2018
As the clock ticks down, the Marlies defense-pair of Borgman-Liljegren fail to get out of their own zone an embarrassing number of times due to the relentless forecheck by the Hershey wingers. Eventually, but without exuding much confidence, they get it out and into the offensive zone.
Marchment goes in on the forecheck and gets nailed hard. Nevertheless, he wins the puck battle and sets up Rosen for a shot from the point. Copley catches the puck and kills the play. Marchment and Lewington were both tangled up in the corner and continued their battle to the front of the net where Marchment jumped on Lewington and the two wrestled in the slot until the linesmen were able to separate them. there were no penalties called on the play.
2-4 and 2-5
The Marlies try their hardest to tie the game but with two minutes remaining in the game and Garret Sparks on the bench, O’Brien pots the puck into the empty net. With a minute to go in the game and Sparks pulled again, Valiev is skating back to catch up to a cleared puck and stumbles. O’Brien grabs the puck and scores his second of the night.
After the Buzzer
Miro Aaltonen has definitely blossomed as the “second guy” on the first line after spending the majority of the season learning the North American game as “that other guy” with AHL stars Kasperi Kapanen and Johnsson. With Timashov moved up to a tougher role and still adjusting, Aaltonen has had to step up and be Johnsson’s running mate.
“I think he’s just figured out the league and the system,” says head coach Sheldon Keefe in a press conference after the game. “He’s created some real good chemistry with Andreas Johnsson and is skating extremely well. He’s been competitive. He’s playing a lot for us, all special teams, all situations at even strength.”
The Marlies’ next game will be the school-day game this Wednesday against the B-Sens at 11:00am. Bring ear protection!