If you’re going to make an audition for the big club, there’s no better place to do it than in their building. Sure, that might not be the only reason that the Toronto Marlies play a handful of games at the Air Canada Centre every season, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Whether it’s your first time playing a meaningful game in the building (hello, Adam Brooks), or just another on the list (looking at you, Martin Marincin), it’s still a notch above your usual night.

The Marlies made the most of the opportunity; starting slow, finishing strong, and taking over the top seed in the AHL with their sixth consecutive win, a 2-1 shootout result.

Forwards Defence/Goaltending
M. Marchment M. Aaltonen K. Kapanen T. Dermott T. Liljegren
D. Timashov M. Mueller A. Johnsson C. Rosen M. Marincin
K. Rychel F. Gauthier C. Greening A. Nielsen V. LoVerde
T. Moore A. Brooks B. Smith G.Sparks

The Marlies had their share of struggles in the first period, but still found a way to get themselves on the scoresheet first. After Chris Kelly headed to a penalty box for a hold, it took just eight seconds for Toronto’s top powerplay unit to convert; a strong string of passes from Calle Rosen, Chris Mueller, and Kerby Rychel culminated in an easy finish that broke the ice.

While they were able to cary that lead into the second period, the Senators found were eventually able to take advantage of the majority control that they had of the game at that point. A strong of errors eventually led to a feed from Max Reinhart to Filip Chlapik, who made no mistake in beating Garret Sparks on the opposing team’s 15th shot. Toronto were able to use a powerplay that came shortly after to regroup, though, and avoided letting the game fall out of control.

The team may have looked their best in the third period, outshooting Belleville 16-2 in the first sixteen minutes while having the puck control to match. The team wasn’t able to convert on those opportunities though, and a penalty to Mason Marchment threatened to jeopardise their momentum in those dying minutes. The team did an excellent job keeping the puck out of the zone in that stretch, though, and managed to stave off a last gasp of pressure from Binghamton before overtime.

Both teams had their share of opportunities in the final frame, with the most threatening coming from the Senators. Garret Sparks managed to make a game-saving save against Gabriel Gagne on that one, though, and the game headed to a shootout. Sparks added two more one-on-one saves (once again on Gagne, once on Max Reinhart) while Miro Aaltonen and Dmytro Timashov both came in with precision and fired shots above Danny Taylor’s high glove to win the skills competition in a perfect pair of rounds.

Overall, this was a game that Toronto collectively had little place being in for the first half, but did well to turn things around. At the individual level, most of the game was pretty par for the course; up front, the Chris Mueller – Andreas Johnsson duo was clicking as they usually are, Miro Aaltonen and Ben Smith contributed on both sides of the ice, and Kasperi Kapanen’s rocket skates were apparent on many occasions.

On the point, Travis Dermott and Timothy Liljegren played with an often risky yet most often rewarding pace and flow, and the Calle Rosen – Andrew Nielsen pair showed flashes of skill but created many nailbiters the other way. In goal, Sparks made a bevy of big saves, extending his torrid run of form.

One minor note that kind of surprised me was a lack of Jeremy Bracco tonight. Bracco was an early cut for the Maple Leafs in the preseason, which means that he’s yet to play a club game at the ACC in his young career. I figured he’d get the appearance as a gesture, but iit’s not something to really lose sleep over either way.

With the win, the Marlies improve to 15-4-0 on the season, giving them a 0.789 record which places them in the American Hockey League’s top seed. They’ll be taking on the Senators again tomorrow afternoon back at Ricoh Coliseum; puck drop is at 4:00 PM.

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