The Toronto Marlies came out with a strong effort against the Texas Stars, getting great goaltending from Joey MacDonald and goals from Ben Ondrus and Josh Engel to hold on for a 2-1 victory, their second straight win on home ice.
From the opening faceoff, the Marlies came out determined and dominated the first period outshooting the Stars 18-5. The start was in complete contrast to their last game where they fell behind 2-0 early and gave up a goal in the first 11 seconds. On Friday night the entire team was forechecking, playing physical, maintaining majority of puck possession with sound positional play and communicating well on the ice.
Toronto opened the scoring at 8:15 of the first period when forward Ben Simon gathered a loose puck along the Texas boards and found an open Ondrus at the top of the left faceoff circle. Ondrus fired a perfect wrist shot past Stars goalie Richard Bachman into the top corner for his first goal since returning to the line-up.
In the dying seconds of the period, defenceman Phil Oreskovic got into a fight with Stars forward Luke Gazdic. The tussle went on for a while with both landing a few punches before the officials separated the players. The first period ended with the Marlies up 1-0.
Stars Pick Up Their Game
The Marlies continued their strong play early in the second period and were rewarded with a power-play. With the man advantage forward Kyle Calder delivered a cross-ice pass to defenceman Josh Engel who fired a quick shot to the short side that deflected past Bachman into the net. With the assist Calder extended his point streak to six games while defenceman Brett Festerling drew the other assist.
As the second period wore on, it became evident that the Stars had made the necessary adjustments and matched the intensity level of the Marlies. Texas slowly gained the majority of puck possession which resulted in more shots and a few great scoring chances. But MacDonald came up with huge saves when called upon even robbing a Stars forward point blank. The Marlies played well defensively by clearing away rebounds and limiting second chances to lead 2-0 heading into the final frame.
In the third both teams lacked the intensity of the previous periods and looked sluggish as neither team was able to generate any good scoring chances. But with less than five minutes to play, Stars forward Travis Morin surrounded by three Marlies’ players fired a pass to an open Perttu Lindgren who one-timed a shot past the glove of MacDonald to bring Texas within a goal and ending the shutout bid.
The Stars pulled their goalie with just over a minute to play but weren’t able to equalize as the Marlies hung on for another one-goal victory. MacDonald stopped 21 of 22 shots for his second consecutive win and 10th of the season.
Sticking to the Game Plan
Marlies coach Dallas Eakins didn’t seem surprised by Texas’ ability to play stronger as the game carried on but was impressed with how his team stuck to the game plan.
“They’re probably one of the best teams we’ve played this year so we had a real strict game plan and we stuck with it right through the game,” said Eakins. “We knew they would get their chances eventually but we wanted to make sure we were patient and confident with what we were trying to do and our guys stuck with it right until the end.”
Ondrus, who scored his 5th of the season, thought his team could have done a better job of protecting their two-goal lead.
“A two-goal lead is probably one of the worst ones to have. If you’re worried about giving one up, that’s usually when they get one, but they’re a very good team and we sort of sat back in the third but we were able to squeak out a win.”
Despite coming within minutes of a shutout, MacDonald stressed the importance of the 2-1 victory.
“It would have been nice to get a shutout but a win’s a win. It’s two points and at this time of year, especially against teams we’re trying to catch, it’s crucial.”
Forward Andre Deveaux was back in the line-up after serving a 3-game suspension and provided a strong physical presence. Deveaux was suspended when he threw a roll of tape at a fan a week ago in Winnipeg during a game against the Manitoba Moose.
The Marlies weren’t able to gain any ground on Manitoba who were also in action on Friday night defeating Rochester 4-3. But the Marlies can take matters into their own hands when the Moose come back to town on Saturday afternoon at Ricoh Coliseum, start time is 4pm. It will be a huge divisional matchup and will mark the fourth game in 8 days between both teams – the rivalry is beginning to heat up.
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