The Toronto Marlies walked into Scotiabank Arena on Family Day and rode a third-period comeback to a 5-3 victory over the North Division’s first-place Syracuse Crunch. Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco combined for two goals in the third period to bring a two-goal deficit down to zero, before Pierre Engvall finished it off with a stunner with less than three minutes to go in regulation. At the other end of the ice, Michael Hutchinson was forced to fill in for Kasimir Kaskisuo after the third-year pro gave up two goals on two shots to open the game. Hutchinson ended up stopping 27 of 28 for the win.
The win came at a great time for Toronto, who have been struggling to find stable footing during the constantly changing February as a result of major and sudden injuries to key players and trades. On defense, things have looked very solid for Toronto with Calle Rosen leading the way and the duo of Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin providing dynamic support. But at forward, it’s been hard to find a line that’s stepped up.
In this game, however, the Marlies saw major contributions from their top two lines, as well as solid shifts from a fourth line with Colin Greening finally on the wing. Brooks and Bracco (along with Trevor Moore) developed a dynamic duo effect in this game, especially in the clutch moments. They should do the Marlies some good by stepping up as the new top line. Engvall has also needed time to work on his confidence in his new role as a center (that is probably temporary), but he got a big boost in this game with the eventual game-winning goal. Hopefully this momentum will carry on through the week as the Marlies are set to play the School Day game on Wednesday morning versus the Manitoba Moose.
At forward, Mason Marchment looks to be done for the season, while Chris Mueller is still a few weeks away with a hamstring injury. Andreas Borgman has been injured since Friday the 16th when he got hit by Paul Thompson on the Springfield Thunderbirds. Martin Marincin also missed this game due to an illness.
Trevor Moore - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Dmytro Timashov - Pierre Engvall - Michael Carcone
Tanner MacMaster - Brady Ferguson - Gabriel Gagne
Colin Greening - Josh Jooris - Griffen Molino
Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
Sam Jardine - Steve Oleksy
Carcone - Brooks - Moore - Bracco - Rosen
MacMaster - Gagne - MacMaster - Liljegren - Sandin
Greening - Jooris - Rosen - LoVerde
Greening - Engvall - Sandin - Liljegren*
*With some different people sprinkled in
Engvall took a tripping penalty two minutes into the game, and the Crunch converted on the power play on their first shot. Cory Conacher took a one-timer from the half wall that beat Kaskisuo — who was trying to be as tall as he could while down on his knees — clean to the top corner. Brooks got caught chasing a little too much and wasn’t close enough to affect Conacher’s shot at all.
Barely three minutes later, Nolan Valleau took a shot from the point, and Oleksy couldn’t tie up 5’10” Alex Barre-Boulet in the slot, and he tipped in the second shot of the game up and over Kaskisuo’s blocker. ABB was far and away the best player in the QMJHL last season. He was an undrafted player who the Tampa Bay Lightning picked up for free at the end of last season. It was one of Steve Yzerman’s parting gifts to the team before he stepped down from his GM role to be a senior adviser.
With the second goal on the second shot, Kaskisuo’s afternoon was over after only 6:25 minutes of play. I wouldn’t say either of the goals were wholly Kaskisuo’s fault. There were defensive breakdowns all around him. I would’ve liked him to stay on his feet for the Conacher goal, and he was drifting out of the net to his right when the puck was tipped. If he stayed centered, he probably would’ve caught the puck in his chest. Nevertheless, the change to Hutchinson was really a call to the team to wake up, and they did just that a few minutes later.
10 seconds after the 2-0 goal, Ross Colton got called for hooking, sending the Marlies to the power play. Less than a minute after that, Calle Rosen loosed a quick wrister through the traffic and past goalie Connor Ingram for the first goal of the game for the Marlies.
I liked what I saw from the Marlies when it came to the top-four on defense and both the Engvall and Jooris lines. Unfortunately, beyond that the team was on their heels a lot. I don’t have Jeff Veillette’s stats in front of me (though, I should probably ask since we are sitting next to each other), but the third pair of Jardine and Oleksy looked like they got caved in on the shot clock. The Marlies finished the first period down 5-10 in shots — for what feels like the first time in a very long time.
I didn’t notice this so much in the first period, but with the long change I’ve seen 19-year-old Timothy Liljegren jumping up the middle of the ice, almost like a center, and leading a rush following a failed breakout by the Crunch. I haven’t seen him get caught going the other way yet (so knock on wood), but he’s created three or four chances for his own team. A 19-year-old right-handed defenseman playing good top-four minutes in the AHL? Why aren’t we talking about him more?!
In the middle of the second, former Marlie Carter Verhaeghe beat Brooks around the outside during a shift in the offensive zone before taking a short-side shot, catching his own rebound, and wrapping the puck around the net and under the diving Hutchinson. The 6’2” LW has 56 points (23g, 33a) in 50 games this season while averaging 2.62 shots per game.
It was another lacklustre period for the Toronto Marlies. they out-shot the Crunch 10-9 in the second period, but a power play late in the period helped them get there. Overall, the Crunch were out-playing the Marlies and left the second up by a greater margin, 3-1, and with a 15-19 shot advantage.
Sandin and Liljegren got their first shifts on the power play in this game. Sandin was the pivot at the top of the formation with Liljegren acting like the facilitator and shooter from the wing. I must say they work well together. Caveat, I don’t see Sandin in a league other than the AHL for the start of the 2019-20 season.
Cal Foote got called for a hooking penalty five minutes into the third period. The first unit came out and Carcone nearly got the Marlies within one on a play to the back door. The same unit would try again and score. Bracco got the off shot from the point, and Brooks banged home the rebound from the side of the net. Rosen got the second assist on the play, adding to his points as the AHL’s top-scoring defenseman.
With seven minutes left in regulation, and the Marlies down by a goal, Brooks and Bracco combined again seven minutes later to tie the game at three. Bracco was going for a puck in the corner, and saw Brooks in front of the net and a lane to pass so he threw the puck over to his friend in one motion, and Brooks tipped the puck up and over the pad of Ingram for his second goal of the game. Moore got the second assist for throwing the puck in the corner.
And with 2:32 left on the clock, Pierre Engvall took the puck for a skate, dangled around everyone to get to the top of the circle, and wired a hard wrister past Ingram, giving the Marlies their first lead of the game. An astonishing comeback that had the Family Day crowd at Scotiabank Arena going wild. They couldn’t beleaf what they were watching.
Pierre Engvall. A rip. With 2:32 left. Marlies claw back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficit. 4-3 Marlies late.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) February 18, 2019
Trevor Moore puts the puck into the empty net with 1:09 left in the game. Rosen with his third point of the game on the goal.
After The Whistle
Head coach Sheldon Keefe had some very candid words with regards to the Sandin - Liljegren pairing. The coach said that this game felt as close to a playoff game as you could get considering the quality of opponent and the surroundings of the SBA on a weekend, and for those two kids to play as strong a transition game (as well as all-around effort) as they did, it was impressive. Keefe was especially happy to see Liljegren playing three games in four nights in three different buildings in the top four of the defense core. He’s really stepped up.