After pulling up while closing last weekend’s back-to-back against Charlotte, one hoped that the Toronto Marlies would start anew with a strong effort against the Syracuse Crunch; a team that has had some turnover, but remains in name (and in some parts of the core) the team that eliminated them from the Calder Cup Playoffs this year.

Honestly, there wasn’t as much of that as one would have hoped, but the Marlies still managed to pull out a 4-2 victory on the road.

Forwards Defence
K. Rychel M. Aaltonen N. Soshnikov T. Dermott T. Liljegren
D. Timashov C. Mueller T. Moore A. Nielsen C. Rosen
R. Clune C. Greening J. Bracco R. Valiev M. Marincin
M. Marchment B. Smith A. Johnsson G. Sparks

The Marlies had an early reason to panic when Mitchell Stephens scored the game’s first goal just 48 seconds in. Timothy Liljegren paired once again with Travis Dermott tonight, found himself way on the wrong side of the ice, allowing Stephens room to burst in and fire a shot past Garret Sparks. Toronto’s netminder did seem to relax a bit afterwards, though, and the crisis was quickly allivated with Miro Aaltonen picked up his first official goal in the organization:

Six minutes later, following a penalty to Alexander Volkov, the Marlies found themselves playing 4-on-4 hockey. But they were very wise to treat the offensive zone draw as its own, powerplay-like opportunity; not only did they have more open space, but good distribution and timing from Dermott and Liljegren created even more room, allowing Colin Greening to take a puck from behind the net and bury it for his second of the season.

Early in the second period, Greening contributed once again, this time finishing off some good puck retrieval work by Dmytro Timashov and Chris Mueller make it a 3-1 game.

Alexander Volkov closed the gap back up a few minutes later, taking advantage of Toronto’s lack of preparation following a counter-attack. Impressively, this ended up being the last goal of the game for either side until Andreas Johnsson potted an empty-netter, even though there were no fewer than seven penalties taken in the next half hour of hockey. Despite being outshot 22-15 in the final 40 minutes, the Marlies held on for the victory.

A big reason for that was Garret Sparks, who was named the game’s third star but really could have been the first (though, Colin Greening wasn’t a bad pick either). The above is one of two replay-all-year quality saves from Sparks in the span of a little over a minute in the late first period, reversing the tide after a nowhere-to-go-but-up start and giving his team the stability they needed at times where they’d stumble. At the end of the night, he ended up with 29 saves on 31 shots, bringing his save percentage on the year to 0.934 (sixth among goalies to play at least 100 minutes so far, second among those who have played 250).

Also of Note…

  • With Vincent LoVerde and Justin Holl sitting out, the Marlies have now found a way to rotate every single defenceman out for a rest night this season. They’re eight games in. That’s crazy.
  • Having a lot of depth helps that, though; tonight, adding Calle Rosen to the mix played a part. He finished the game with three shots on goal, and an assist on the empty-netter.
  • Timothy Liljegren’s run of point-producing terror continues thanks to his secondary assist on the first Greening goal. He now has five points in seven games.
  • Greening led all Toronto skaters with five shots on goal. His trio was noticeable; he, Dmytro Timashov, and Mueller all had a healthy combo of points, shots, and/or penalty minutes to raise awareness of their existence.
  • A successful penalty kill is a great thing to have, so no one will complain about going 6-for-6 there, but the 0-for-7 performance on the powerplay brings Toronto further down the ranks to start the season. A team once lauded for its dominance while up a man is scoring about half as often as they did last year, now 6-for-53 to start the year.

With the victory, Toronto improves to 5-2-0 on the season. They play their next game tomorrow afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum, against the Laval Rocket.

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