The ice has been restored at the Coliseum and the Toronto Marlies are back in town. Their return Friday night featured a big 6-2 win against the Charlotte Checkers.
The team looked and played like they were refreshed from their brief break for the AHL All-Star Classic that followed their eight game road trip through the U.S. to play out-of-division teams during the Toronto Boat Show. It was a road trip that didn’t go well, as the Marlies lost seven of the eight games, including the match they forfeited because of a medical emergency involving Assistant Coach Rob Davison. Davison was back behind the bench with Greg Moore on Friday.
The Marlies’ rivalry with the Checkers has been building over the past two years, notably escalating since the Marlies lost to them in the Eastern Conference Final of last season’s playoffs. The Checkers went on to win the Calder Cup.
The Marlies played the Checkers twice on the road trip and lost both games, but they certainly made their presence felt in Charlotte, dragging the Checkers all the way to a shootout in the first game. It’s no surprise there were plenty of big hits and even a fight on Friday. And for the Marlies, there were also lots of goals.
Marlies Lines Friday Night
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Egor Korshkov - Nic Petan - Pontus Aberg
Garrett Wilson - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Darren Archibald - Tanner MacMaster - Scott Pooley
Teemu Kivihalme - Timothy Liljegren
Ben Harpur - Mac Hollowell
Kristians Rubins - Jordan Schmaltz
There was a little dance before the game for Kevin Gravel, who was called up to the Leafs and then sent back down, something which may have to do with Travis Dermott being sick and the Leafs needing another defenceman at their practice. Ultimately, Gravel didn’t play in this game.
Speaking of being sick, Kenny Agostino was out ill for this game.
The Checkers started the game with Anton Forsberg in net, though he didn’t make it through to the end. More on that in a bit.
A bit of trivia I noticed of the Checkers roster is they apparently assign numbers to players sequentially starting with #1, with no exceptions allowed. #37 is currently the highest number assigned to a player on the team roster which has 26 names on it, so most of the numbers are used, and they’ve simply gone up by one any time someone new joins the team this season or recycled one of the numbers when someone leaves. It reminded me of the Burke-era Maple Leafs where almost all players were assigned sequential numbers upwards from #35 for a few seasons.
The Checkers scored first in the game, setting up a battle for the night with their new rivals. Only 100 seconds later Nic Petan tied it up, with some great support work from his linemates including Korshkov who would have a big goal later from working in the same area around the net he is in here.
There were no penalties called in the first period, but that calm play would change later in the game.
The Marlies came out swinging in the second period, scoring three goals in the first three minutes. Hollowell was first, and it was his first ever AHL goal.
Scott Pooley followed that up in the next minute giving the Marlies a nice 3-1 lead and control of the game.
After Pooley scored his first goal the Checkers pulled goalie Forsberg and put in Alex Nedeljkovic. It took all of 19 seconds for Pooley to score on him too, thanks to a hilarious giveaway by the Checkers and putting the Marlies up 4-1.
The teams traded power play goals after that, including the Checkers getting this tip-in which left Kaskisuo visibly frustrated for a time but this is one that’s really difficult for him to stop.
Second period ended with the Marlies up 5-2 and it was basically over for the Checkers soon after the start of the next period.
Korshkov had the highlight of the third with his goal five minutes in that put the Marlies up 6-2. He does some fantastic work to hold off defenceman Clark Bishop form the Checkers, a 2014 draft pick who has NHL experience with the Hurricanes, including being called up for several games this season. If Korshkov can do this to an NHL defenceman here, perhaps he’s soon to be ready for that challenge in every game by way of a spot on the Leafs.
After the Korshkov goal things got really chippy as the Checkers realised the game was getting out of their reach. We had big hits and counter hits—Marchment was involved in several of those—some penalties and even a gloves thrown off fight between Garrett Wilson and Cedric Lacroix.
I noted the Checkers did have some quality possession during the even-strength part of this period. They were cycling the puck around and behind the net without the Marlies being able to clear it out, even when they could briefly get control of the puck. That was too little to late though. Kaskisuo closed the door, the game was over, and the Marlies walked away with the much needed big victory.
You could see the Marlies jump out of the gate with high energy and that was nice to see. It looked good on them. That’s the Marlies I remember from the first half of the season. “The break was good to us,” Coach Moore said about the team looking refreshed. “You could tell the energy and the excitement for the players to be back on the ice.” He also felt this game was the continuation of a turnaround for the team that started in Cleveland last weekend, despite the fact they lost there. “In our staff’s mind we’ve put together three good games. Hopefully we can continue to find that consistency.”
Korshkov didn’t travel with the Marlies on their road trip through the US while he recovered from a bad gash from a skate in a game a few weeks ago.
He looked great in this game; really a force to be reckoned with in front of the Checkers’ net. Moore was impressed too. “He’s an interesting and fun player to watch. He just sheds people off as they come and approach him. He’s great at protecting the puck and possessing,” said Moore about the immovable object that would make a point to plant himself in the opposing goal crease. I saw him get right in behind and in front of the net to battle for plays like in the clip below all game.
Egor Korshkov doing great work for the Marlies as the big guy in front of the net here before the Petan goal in the first period. Great to see him back. pic.twitter.com/Rsb4FHVFuO— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) February 1, 2020
Pooley had a night to remember scoring two goals. He has a nice shot and it would be great to see more of it on the Marlies. He wasn’t certain, but thinks it’s the first time he’s ever scored on two goalies in one game. “It might have been! I hadn’t thought about that,” he laughed.
Poor Timothy Liljegren was hit by a really hard shot of the puck to down below, and you could feel how much that hurt him as he keeled over on the ice for a minute. He left the game, but came back about five minutes later and seemed fine after the game.
The Marlies play the Checkers again on Saturday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the Coliseum.
Here’s the Game Highlights pack for Friday.
And here are the current standings int he AHL North Division.