There were peaks and there were valleys, but the Toronto Marlies escaped their Royal Winter Fair road trip with five wins in six games, only once giving up more than one goal. You can’t ask for much more than that, but you can emphasize the need to carry that momentum back into Ricoh Coliseum.

The team did just that, taking on the Syracuse Crunch and powering through to secure a 2-1 victory to open their back-to-back weekend.

The game didn’t start off easy for Toronto, though. Travis Dermott has struggled with discipline throughout this season, and history repeated itself three minutes into the first period. Adam Erne took advantage of the situation, immediately cutting through the Marlies defence after a Syracuse faceoff win and potting a rebound past Garret Sparks to put Syracuse up almost instantaneously.

Toronto managed to flip the special tables relatively quickly, though. After killing a tripping infraction by Calle Rosen, the team picked up three powerplays in the period, and in each of the first two, they capitalized. Andreas Johnsson potted his seventh goal of the season off a pin-point pass from Chris Mueller, and when former Leafs prospect Carter Verhaeghe was sent off for a slash, Kasperi Kapanen responded thusly:

It was a great play that exemplified just how much Kapanen is a “not if, but when” NHL player. After Calle Rosen sends back his attempted carry-in, Kapanen wastes no time storming across the ice, finding just the slightest opening, and rifling the puck past newly-acquired Crunch goaltender Louis Domingue.

While the game’s scoring cut off after that first period, it was still a pretty enjoyable effort to watch. You had mistakes that led to recoveries, big saves, Justin Holl being himself in both the offensive and defensive zones, goalies taking interference penalties, and a near equalizer, that you can see above. Mitch Stephens hits breaks through Toronto’s line of defence to attempt to beat Sparks. He does, but he hits iron. A mis-pressed goal lamp, however, led to some curious eyes and a video review, which made it clear that it wasn’t all that close to crossing the line.

One line that didn’t convert, but impressed in that back half was the fourth. So many like to dissect the Leafs’ need for big players, tough players, and veteran experience, but down below, that all got thrown out the window tonight. Their bottom line was not one of gritty journeymen, but a trio of small kids; sophomore Trevor Moore was placed rookies Adam Brooks and Jeremy Bracco, a line where not a single player cleared 5’10 or an age older than 22.

Impressively, the group worked hard on both sides of the ice, didn’t really get pushed around, drew a penalty in the one instance where one of them got “outmuscled” (it was actually a hit from behind), and almost had a few lethal chances. Brooks and Bracco are still without their first pro goals, but if they play like they did tonight, They’ll be coming soon.

Forwards Defence/Goaltending
K. Rychel M. Aaltonen A. Johnsson T. Dermott V. LoVerde
D. Timashov C. Mueller K. Kapanen R. Valiev J. Holl
C. Greening F. Gauthier B. Smith A. Nielsen C. Rosen
T. Moore A. Brooks J. Bracco G. Sparks

With the win, the Marlies improve to 12-4-0 on the season, giving them a 0.750 record that places them in a tie for second in the AHL standings. Their next game is tomorrow afternoon, once again against Syracuse.

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