It was a Goliath vs. Blue Goliath battle tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday evening. The Toronto Marlies and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Heading into puck drop, the two sides shared the top seed in the Eastern Conference with the top of the league within reach. However, with ties being a thing of the distant past, one of these sides had to leave the ice atop the standings. Unfortunately for the Marlies, it would be their opponents, not themselves, as they fell 4-2 in a game where they started well but struggled for the bulk of the night.

Forwards Defence/Goaltending
K. Rychel A. Brooks A. Johnsson T. Dermott V. LoVerde
D. Timashov C. Mueller T. Moore A. Nielsen C. Rosen
C. Greening M. Aaltonen N. Soshnikov M. Marincin J. Holl
M. Marchment B. Smith R. Clune G. Sparks

The Marlies got themselves off to an excellent start in this one, finding their way onto the scoresheet in a little over a minute. Against all conventional stereotypes, the instigator of this goal was a well-placed Martin Marincin point shot, which was deflected by a streaking Dmytro Timashov to beat Casey DeSmith.

From there, though, the team struggled; after throwing a few more decent scoring chances on net, it seemed like Toronto hit a hard and fast wall. The puck became seemingly magnetized to Toronto’s offensive zone, with the team struggling to break out, distribute, or make any sort of positive decision that would sustain them for more than a few seconds. Ten minutes later, Andrey Pedan turned a Marincin giveaway into his first goal with the Penguins. The Marlies were given a chance to turn the tide late in the period with an extended 5-on-3, but even getting a shot on net was a chore for them despite the open space.

Be it confidence or out-matching, things certainly didn’t improve after the failed powerplay. The Penguins absolutely reamed Toronto in the middle frame, taking 17 shots to the Marlies’ four. The most important of the bunch came from Ryan Haggerty in the penultimate minute. Despite Garret Sparks’ efforts to keep his team afloat, he was eventually bested by a seeing-eye shot towards his glove hand.

Toronto’s struggles bled into the third period. Less than two minutes in, Thomas Di Pauli managed to burn Calle Rosen and pivot himself to his backhand just enough to slip the puck past Sparks. The Penguins’ puck dominance held for a while yet at this point, but a glimmer of hope came when Nikita Soshnikov put home his own rebound to bring Toronto back within one. It was right around then when the blue and white seemed to regain a semblance of control, but it was too little too late; Wilkes-Barre added an empty-netter and capped the game off with two minutes to go.

Of Note

  • Minutes 10 through 45 of this game has to be up there for one of the worst in-game stretches the team has had for a while. I might be off by a slight margin of error here (AHL has no play-by-play data, so I’m going off mid-period memory), but I had that stretch at a shot gap of 28-7. Save for a few blocked powerplay shots, they looked it.
  • Garret Sparks was their star tonight, as he’s been most nights. He wasn’t dominant enough to steal the game, but he kept them in it as long as he could and still managed to put up a 0.927 in a loss (!) and have that bring down his full-season save percentage (!!)
  • Adam Brooks got some first line duty for the first time today, and Rich Clune drew in for one of his semi-occasional cameos. I’d assume that both of these are butterfly effects from Frederik Gauthier’s call-up. Neither were super duper noticeable.
  • Since Soshnikov scored, I’m going to take an opportunity to plug this post from earlier today.
  • Not a ton of players got on the shot sheet more than once. Calle Rosen (who otherwise struggled) fired five, Colin Greening took four, Dmytro TImashov and Kerby Rychel each had a pair.
  • Mason Marchment’s point streak ends at four games (2 goals, 6 assists), but he did have a close call in the third period that almost extended it. Unfortunately for him, he found iron.
  • The loss snaps Toronto’s undefeated run on this road trip.

With the regulation loss, the Marlies fall to 9-4-0 on the season. That’s still enough to have the North Division lead, but places them fourth in the conference thanks to a stacked Atlantic. Toronto returns to the ice on Friday night, when they take on the Binghamton Devils.

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