The Toronto Marlies defeated the Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliates) on Wednesday morning in front of what was supposed to be a full house of screaming school kids. The actual crowd was quite sparse because of current labour disputes, and the Ontario teachers in a work-to-rule state which precludes field trips, but those who still showed up were quite enthusiastic and got to see Tanner MacMaster win the day in overtime.
The New Marlies Lines
Here’s how Coach Greg Moore deployed his new team on Wednesday.
Kenny Agostino - Tanner MacMaster - Pontus Aberg
Matt Lorito - Riley Woods - Egor Korshkov
Miikka Salomaki - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Rich Clune - Hudson Elynuik - Max Veronneau
Teemu Kivihalme - Joseph Duszak
Kevin Gravel - Michael Kapla
Kristians Rubins - Mac Hollowell
Salomaki joined the first unit of the Marlies penalty kill, while Lorito was put on the first unit of the power play.
By no means are these lines set in stone, and there will likely still be some experimentation before a hopefully quick return from injury for Nic Petan and Scott Pooley which will result in further lineup changes.
Adam Brooks was confirmed to have a concussion from an incident in game on February 15. He joins Jesper Lindgren and Kalle Kossila on the list of players with no defined timeline for a return from injury, however Kasimir Kaskisuo is expected to be back in action and available to play in the net for the Marlies soon.
Hardev wrote a detailed explainer about who is in and who is out on the Marlies which you can read at this link:
Players have told me before these morning games throw them for a loop, even though they know they are coming and can prepare for them. Playing at 11:00 a.m. usually results in an odd game, but this one proceeded pretty normally.
It was one of the Marlies new guys who got them on the board early. Salomaki scored his first goal with the team only 3:48 in to the first period.
Only three and a half minutes later Michael Kapla scored his first goal as a member of the Marlies.
The Monsters kept on the Marlies reasonably well, but Trey Fix-Wolansky scored their first goal just before the end the first period.
The Monsters have some very tall players who use their reach very effectively to disrupt the offence of their opponents. 6’5 Sam Vigneault and 6’6 Doyle Somerby broke up a lot of the attacks by the Marlies with stick lifts from what looked like five feet away from their target player carrying the puck because they could reach out so far. A lot of the Marlies really were flummoxed by these counter-measures. Egor Korshkov and Tyler Gaudet are the comparable players on the Marlies but don’t get engaged like that as often. Speaking of Tyler Gaudet, he put the Marlies up 2-1 In the second period on a double minor power play against the Monsters which was carried over from the first period.
The Monsters then tied up the game in the second period with power plays of their own, one of which was caused by Gaudet and on which they Monsters scored off the face-off only four seconds in.
There were no goals in the third period, so regulation ended with a 3-3 time which means it went to....
Tanner MacMaster scored the game winner and it was a beauty.
Post-game thoughts and comments
It was a bit jarring to see Salomaki wearing Mason Marchment’s #20, but he made an immediate positive impact on the team. He reminded me a fair bit of Leo Komarov, and not only because they they are both Finnish and look kind of similar, but their mix of skilled play and physicality—going all in on hits when the opportunity is there—is the same. Salomaki comes out of the Nashville Predators system where several years ago he was playing there with both Pontus Aberg and Rich Clune, and now they are reunited here. He said he knows other Marlies from his past as well and that has made for an easy transition.
My first impression of Lorito was that he looked almost like he was taking over for the playmaking role of Jeremy Bracco. There is still no update on Bracco who has been out on team approved leave for “personal reasons” since he last played on February 1st.
This win snapped a three game losing skid and has kept the Marlies in the hunt for a playoff spot. It’s going to be a long March to play through for this team and it looks now like it could break either way. No one likes this outcome, but it could come right down to the final games of the season.
The Marlies are heading out on the road for this weekend starting with stops in upstate New York tonight to face the Utica Comets tonight and the Binghamton Devils tomorrow. Then they will head to Texas to face the Stars for a game-in-lieu of the one cancelled in January.
The Marlies won’t be back in Toronto until Friday March 6th for a rare Friday night game at which they will play the Syracuse Crunch.
Here’s the game highlight pack.