By Stan Smith
In this edition of the Toronto Marlies Weekly Report, Stan will look at two games the Marlies played last week.
The Marlies returned home to the Coca-Cola Coliseum after a moderately successful seven-game road trip that saw them go 4-3. In the two most recent games, they faced the visiting Manitoba Moose in back-to-back games. Here are the reviews of these games and what key players did in them.
Game One: Marlies 7 – Moose 2
The first period of the Saturday afternoon game was a back-and-forth affair as the teams traded five goals. Captain Logan Shaw, who was returning from an injury, got the Marlies on board 54 seconds into the game. Parker Ford tied it up for the Moose at 2:31 of the period. Toronto then struck for two goals in 1:23 when Alex Steeves scored his ninth goal of the season and Pontus Holmberg scored his first goal since being sent down by the Maple Leafs.
After allowing three goals on five shots, Manitoba goalie Collin Delia was pulled and replaced by Thomas Milic. The Moose pulled back to within one goal with just seven seconds left in the period when Nikita Chibrikov scored.
Shaw scored his second goal of the game at 2:05 of the second period to restore Toronto’s two-goal lead and the game was never in doubt after that. The Marlies controlled the rest of the game. Steeve’s added another goal later in the second and the Marlies outshot the Moose 12-2 in the middle stanza.
Toronto shut things down effectively in the third period and added goals by Dimitri Ovchinnikov and Tommy Miller as icing on the cake.
Marlies Dennis Hildeby Lost His Shutout Steak
Marlies’ starting goaltender Dennis Hildeby saw his shutout streak end at 122 minutes and 31 seconds when the Moose scored their first goal. Hildeby became the first Marlies rookie goalie to post back-to-back shutouts in his previous two games. Hildeby stopped 16 of the 18 shots he faced and increased his record to 3-1-1 with a save percentage of 0.941 and a Goals-Against-Average of 1.41.
After going goalless in his first five games, Ovchinikov’s goal gave him five goals in three games. Shaw and Steeves each added an assist to give them both three-point games. Kieffer Bellows had three assists in the game.
Game Two: Moose 4 – Marlies 2
After being embarrassed in the first game, the Moose came out flying on Sunday afternoon. They took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Nicholas Jones and Brad Lambert. Alex Steeves got one back at 2:08 of the second period on the penalty kill when he stripped a Moose player of the puck at the Marlies’ blue line and took it in alone on Delia. It was Steeve’s 11th goal and 18th point in 14 games.
Manitoba restored their two-goal lead when CJ Suess beat the Marlies’ starter, Keith Petruzzelli. Bellows got Toronto back within one later in the second period with his fifth goal of the season.
It was Manitoba’s turn to lock things down in the third period as they limited the Marlies to just six shots. They capped the game off with an empty net goal with 56 seconds left in the game to make the final score 4-2.
Petruzzelli saw his record drop to 3-2-1. After six games, Petruzzelli’s Save Percentage sits at 0.873 and his Goals-Against-Average is 3.37.
Toronto Marlies Highlights
Steeves’ 11 goals and 18 points are both second in AHL scoring. Adam Gaudette, who started the 2022-23 season with the Marlies but was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the Ryan O’Reilly deal, leads the AHL with 13 goals and 20 points. Gaudette has played two more games than Steeves.
Nick Abruzzese picked up one assist on the weekend and sits second in Marlies scoring with 12 points (3 goals, 9 assists) in 14 games played.
Bellows has five goals and 11 points despite playing only seven games since being signed to a PTO by the Marlies. I have to admit I’m surprised that the Maple Leafs organization has not signed Bellows to some kind of contract, be it an NHL or AHL one. At the very least he seems a keeper for the AHL.
What’s Next for the Marlies?
With the weekend split, the Marlies now find themselves in a three-way tie for first place in the North Division of the AHL. Toronto, the Syracuse Crunch, and the Rochester Americans all have identical 8-4-2 records.
They play three games this week. Tuesday night they play host to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Marlies then have a home-and-home divisional set on the weekend against the Cleveland Monsters. They play in Cleveland on Friday night before returning to Toronto for a Sunday afternoon game.
The Monsters are just one point behind the Marlies in the North Division with a game in hand. These two games represent a potential eight-point swing between the two teams.