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Marlies recap: Garret Sparks is the winningest goalie in franchise history after 4-1 victory over Laval

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As the Marlies say “au revoir” to the ACC, Andreas Johnsson and Calle Rosen say “bonjour!”

Toronto Marlies goalie Garret Sparks stretching to make a save against the Laval Rocket at the Air Canada Centre.
Credit: Christian Bonin

The Toronto Marlies beat the Laval Rocket 4-1 in their final game at the Air Canada Centre this season.

It was the 72nd victory in Garret Sparks’ career, meaning he has the most wins in franchise history, passing Justin Pogge — who he met and skated with for the first time this summer — for sole possession of first on the list. “It means I’ve been here a long time,” said Sparks after the game before repeating the organizational mantra that “Wins are a team stat”.

Sparks mentioned that he had a moment in one of the halls of the ACC two seasons ago when he was the goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and that he had another one again today before the game. “I joked with the Marlies game day staff that it’s a good thing no one interviewed me because I would’ve lost it.”

Garret Sparks sprawling to keep the puck out with the help of his teammates.
Credit: Christian Bonin

Andreas Johnsson continued his torrid pace, scoring a power play goal to bring his point toal to 54 points in 54 games. As I am finishing this article, the Leafs announced that Johnsson is getting the call to the big leagues. If this is the last game of Andreas’ AHL career, it’s fitting that he goes out as a point-per-game player.

The Team

Forwards

Andreas Johnsson - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith (C)

Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Kyle Baun

Dmytro Timashov - Colin Greening (A) - Rich Clune (A)

Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco

Defense

Martin Marincin - Justin Holl

Andreas Borgman - Timothy Liljegren

Andrew Nielsen - Calle Rosen

Garret Sparks is looking to become the Toronto Marlies’ all-time wins leader with a victory tonight. All he needs is his 72nd win in his 112th game to pass Justin Pogge (142 gp) as the most succcessful goalie in the Marlies’ 40 year history.

The man who was going to topple Carey Price from his throne, Zach Fucale, gets the start for Laval. He has an .892 save percantage in 14 games this season. He is the AHL back-up to starter Michael McNiven who is on the bench tonight.

Former Marlies third-line left winger Kerby Rychel is the Rocket’s new star winger and that’s not an exaggeration. Just look at that lineup, woof.

First Period

The Marlies come out flying to start the game. They tally five shots as well as Mason Marchment and Ben Smith each hit the post before the Rocket can even get an attempt on goal. For a player that wasn’t drafted, Marchment has a surpringly hard and accurate shot. Just look at his goal from Saturday: Marchment catches the puck with a player draped over him, sets, and wires a snapper without any wind-up. There’s a reason why he’s poised to fill one of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prized contracts when he signs an entry-level contract in the very near future.

You know it’s going to be a fun afternoon when you get to watch Timothy Liljegren go for an end-to-end rush, miss the top of the net by a hair, but drawing a slashing penalty from first-line center Adam Cracknell. One minute into the power play, Chris Terry gets loose for a short-handed rush. His shot — the first for the Rocket all game — on Sparks is saved but he and Nielsen fall into the goalie. As the play goes on, Terry gives Nielsen a shot, causing Sparks to react in kind. The referee sees all of this happen and decides to call Sparks for roughing. Power play over.

1-0

At one end, 25 and Nielsen get into a shoving match in the corner behind Sparks. At the other, Kyle Baun sets up Trevor Moore for his first point as a member of the Toronto Marlies. Against his former team, no less! Moore (#9) gets his ninth goal of the season thanks a quality rip from the slot. Freddy the Goat, who drew a defender to him as he lumbered to the front of the net, gets the second assist on the goal.

1-1

Cracknell, who has been all over the ice this game, picks up a pass from former Syracuse Crunch defenseman Matt Taormina, walks to the top of the circle and beats Sparks to the far side with a shot. Toronto’s first line got caught deep at one end so Justin Holl ended up being the only defenseman back on the two-on-one.

2-1

Another wrister from the top of the circle gets by a goalie in this game. Dmytro Timashov breaks into the zone, overlaps to the right so that Colin Greening can come in behind him and snap a shot that beats Fucale to the blocker side. Andreas Borgman receives the second assist on the play, his third assist of the season and sixth point.

Timashov has really excelled in recent days, he has assists in back-to-back games and looks dangerous every time he’s on the ice. Greening has become yet another vet that the Marlies have been able to heavily depend on, especially at center.

The Marlies — and Leafs for that matter — probably expected more out of Borgman when he was sent down. He’s had flashes of brilliance but has been generally unimpressive. Penalty killing and tougher defensive minutes seem to be the emphasis of what he’s supposed to be learning during his stint down here, so at least there’s progress in those areas.

After One

The Marlies started strong for the second time in as many games, jumping out to a 5-0 shot advantage, but the Sparks penalty — that shouldn’t have been a penalty, let’s be real — allowed “Le Rocket” to catchup and gain some confidence. At the end of the period, the Marlies still maintain a 11-6 shot-advantage. Eye-test evaluation also indicates the Marlies getting the lion’s share of the chances in this game. Toronto has done well to get bodies in front of shot to either force them wide or get blocked.

Second Period

The Marlies kick off the second period with a former member of the organization doing a dastardly thing. He tripped Justin Holl! *gasp*.

The kid group of Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks, Marchment, Timashov, and Liljegren have a good opening power play shift with Timashov getting a good rip at the net from the half-wall. That was the most exciting the special teams would be for a while.

The second group comes onto the ice and Trevor Moore nearly beats Fucale to the far side but the puck was taken away from him before he could get the shot off. On the play, Johnsson takes a holding penalty, ending the power play. The game gets mired in more special teams action when Laval’s Niki Petti takes a tripping penalty a minute into the Johnsson infraction. Kyle Baun takes the fourth consecutive penalty of the period, a slashing call at 5:10. The flow of the play has completely left this game and it’s shown in the quality of the play during each team’s man-advantage. We have had a total of 53 seconds of five-on-five hockey since the drop of the puck and the period is seven minutes old.

Antoine Wakes battling with Ben Smith and Adam Brooks as the Toronto Marlies and Laval Rocket play at the Air Canada Centre
Credit: Thomas Skrlj

The penalties are finally over; Nielsen just gave Moore a great break-out pass, and the play can get going ag- WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE MARLIES GOT CALLED FOR TOO MANY MEN THEY ONLY HAD FIVE GUYS ON THE ICE. Wait, they reviewed it and retracted the penalty? Oh good. Moving on.

After Two

After a very lacklustre start to the period, the Marlies were able to get chances towards Fucale’s net. The kid line of Marchment, Brooks, and Bracco have had some of the best shifts in this game (against fourth-line competition). Their cycle game is quick, the time in the weight room has really helped Bracco out in this regard. Marchment has been a horse for the team all over the middle of the ice, creating plays both offensively and disrupting the opponents defensively. Shots in the second period are 12-7 in favour of the Marlies despite the seven minutes of boredom. Overall, the Marlies lead 23-13 in shots and still 2-1 in the game.

Jeremy Bracco and Mason MArchment streaking out of the zone.
Credit: Christian Bonin

Third Period

Mason Marchment, yes I’m going to keep harping on this guy, has been a hound on the puck all game long. There was a play where the Rocket looked like they were getting the puck out of the zone but Marchment stepped up and denied the exit and if the puck had settled down for him, he would’ve had a clean breakaway on Fucale.

Andrew Nielsen and Jordan Boucher collapse into a heated battle along the wall. Boucher falls awkwardly and the whistle blows for what might be a Nielsen boarding penalty but instead, Boucher gets called for “closing his hand on the puck.” Power play for the Marlies!

3-1

Andreas Johnsson scores again, what else is new. Trevor Moore and Chris Mueller combine for a low-high passing play near the net. Mueller sees that he doesn’t have a shot opportunity from the side of the net so he passes the puck over a swimming Fucale and to Johnsson. The Swedish scorer’s 26th goal of the season is also his 54th point, making him a point-per-game player once again.

Andreas Johnsson and Antoine Waked (he’ll be Woked after he finishes his humanities major) get into a shoving match in neutral ice. Both go to the box for roughing. The penalties continue as the game gets a little more heated, and Nielsen gets his 112th penalty minute of the season when he trips up a Laval forward in the corner.

Andreas Johnsson working hard in the corner. His shiftiness makes it very difficult to knock him off the puck.
Credit: Thomas Skrlj

With six minutes left in the game and a two goal cushion, the Marlies penalty kill group of Clune, Greening, Johnsson, Smith with Marincin, Holl, Rosen, and Borgman do a great job of limiting the power play to only one shot against.

4-1

With three minutes left to play in the game, Laval pulls their goalie. Ben Smith and Justin Holl are able to get away from the pack after a smart, short pass in the defenive zone by Mueller. With all but one of the Rocket players caught, Smith makes an easy pass from the far boards to Holl in the middle of the ice, his sixth goal of the season on his 103rd shot.

After the Whistle

The Marlies may have already clinched a playoff spot but the message came loud and clear from the players and coach that they don’t want to get lazy down the stretch.

“The details of how you play in March are going to seep into how you play in April,” quotes Garret Sparks.

Andrew Nielsen mentioned a part of Sheldon Keefe’s post-game speech saying “When you play on good teams and you play the right way, it gives guys the opportunity to not only have team success but personal success.”

“We want to remain healthy, we want to remain rested, but we also want to be peaking at the right time.” concludes Sheldon Keefe.


Since this was the last game the Marlies will play at the ACC this season, it’s the last chance PPP will be there in 2017-18. I just want to say that it was an experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to do it all again next year if the opportunity presents itself. To the trainers, the cooks, and the attendants, you’re the best!

And thanks for the pasta!