The Marlies hosted two West division teams at Ricoh Coliseum this weekend, first the San Antonio Rampage tried to erase their season-long three game losing streak against the Marlies before being followed by the red hot Oklahoma City Barons, who boasted a 7-2-1 record heading into the afternoon affair.
San Antonio’s quest to end their losing streak against the Baby Leafs got off to a rocky start, Tyler Biggs scored his sixth goal of the year just ten seconds into the match, giving the Marlies a 1-0 lead. It wouldn’t take long for the Marlies to add to their early lead, Jerry D’Amigo scored on the rush at 10:24 just as defender Alex Petrovic gave him a hard slash which sent D’Amigo into the boards at top speed. Petrovic was given a major penalty and misconduct for the slash, meaning San Antonio would go without the 21-year-old for the remainder of the game. This isn’t Petrovic’s first hot-headed game against the Marlies, just weeks earlier in their last match-up he dropped the gloves on two separate occasions with Mike Duco and Sam Carrick.
The second period was quieter than the first, neither team found the net though the Marlies did ply the pressure on San Antonio, outshooting their opposition 14-2 in the frame. San Antonio came at the Marlies hard in the final period, outshooting Toronto 11-6 and cutting the lead in half. Their efforts would be futile though as Drew Macintyre put forth another strong performance and help the Marlies to their fourth win against the Rampage.
Twenty-two and a half hours later the puck dropped again in Ricoh, this time the Marlies had to contend with past playoff rivals the Oklahoma City Barons in front of 4290 fans. The game was played to a quick tempo, both teams ended up combining for 20+ shots in each period, neither ever having fewer than eight in a frame.
The teams exchanged chances in the first period but neither found the net, Richard Bachman and Garret Sparks both going into the first intermission with perfect save percentages.
The game cracked open after the break though, Anton Lander scored a powerplay goal on one of his eight shots to give OKC a lead, though it didn’t last long. Kenny Ryan collected two assists in the following minutes as he helped set up Greg McKegg and Jamie Devane for a pair of quick Marlies goals at 8:34 and 9:42, snatching the lead for Toronto by the halfway point of the game.
The next goal came exactly 20 minutes after Devane’s tally, Greg McKegg scored his second of the night at the 9:42 mark in the third period. Brandon Kozun iced the cake for Toronto with his fifteenth goal of the year. This put the game out of reach for Oklahoma City, both teams coasted to a 4-1 finish.
Notes and thoughts:
Recently sent down Peter Holland began another stint with the Marlies against OKC, Steve Spott re-appointed him as the team’s #1 centre upon his re-assignment from the Leafs. Though held pointless against the Barons he did manage to direct five shots on goal.
The new grind line of Mike Duco-Jerred Smithson-Tyler Biggs has looked great since Steve Spott put them together, though they don’t produce much offense (eight combined goals this season) they’re a consummate energy line, always working on the forecheck and wearing down the opposition. I think Biggs will land somewhere between Brandon Prust and Tim Jackman. Maybe it’s not what you expect out of a first round pick but great fourth liners are hard to come by, let’s be grateful for one no matter where he’s drafted.
Another future fourth liner to look at is Jamie Devane, the heavyweight still has progression to make if he wants to be Colton Orr’s successor but if he makes it he could be another “fighter who can play” that the Leafs haven’t had on a consistent basis for years.
After his rough start and spell in the ECHL it appears Garret Sparks is starting to get used to AHL hockey, in his six starts since new year’s he has posted a save percentage below .926 just once.
Three Stars of the Week:
Third Star: The Grinders
As I mentioned above, the Duco-Smithson-Biggs line has been a nice experiment by Spott, proving to be a serviceable energy line. Smithson seems devoted to getting back onto the big club, Biggs is trying to show all that he’s no bust despite not being a high scorer, and Toronto-native Duco just seems grateful for another shot in North America after spending last season with Salzburg EC.
Second Star: Stuart Percy
Drafted only a few spots after Biggs, Percy will probably prove to be the bigger name of the pair. With his smooth skating, two-way acumen, and composure under pressure he looks like he could be Toronto’s best defensive prospect behind Morgan Rielly, though Matt Finn could certainly challenge for that title. He had two assists in his two games this week.
First Star(s): Drew Macintyre and Garret Sparks
Though the journeyman in Macintyre carried much of Toronto’s goaltending workload in 2013 it looks like he might be sharing the tasks at hand with rookie Sparks. Though Sparks had the better performance of the pair with 38 saves on 39 shots, Macintyre also did well when called upon in his game against San Antonio.