The Toronto Marlies battled the Utica Comets for the second time in as many days on Sunday afternoon, skating to a 4-3 victory in a back-and-forth game that saw the Comets climb back from two deficits.
Similar to Saturday, the Comets struck first, with Carter Bancks scoring just 3:30 into the opening frame.
Less than a minute later, with the Marlies on the man advantage, Kerby Rychel notched his second of the season, picking up a rebound on the door step and firing it home. Andreas Johnsson and Andrew Nielsen each picked up their second assists of the season on the power play marker.
Back on the power play late in the period, Timothy Liljegren scored the first of his career, backhanding a loose puck over a sprawling Richard Bachman. Colin Greening picked up an assist as did Chris Mueller, who picked up his first point as a Marlie on the goal.
Early in the second period, the Comets took advantage of a power play opportunity of their own, as Joseph LaBate tipped a point shot from Jordan Subban to tie the game.
Ben Smith responded for the Marlies midway through the period, as he pounced on a loose puck and backhanded it past Bachman to put Toronto back in front. It was Smith’s first of the season, with Justin Holl earning his first assist on the year.
With the Comets on a 5-on-3 power play late in the period, Alexis D’Aoust scored for Utica to tie things up at 3-3 heading into the final frame.
Just past the four minute mark of the third period, Ben Smith sped into the offensive zone and fired a shot on net, which was deflected by Andreas Johnsson for what would hold up as the game winner.
Garret Sparks started for the second straight night, and made 30 saves for win number two on the season. Bachman picked up the loss for Utica, also stopping 30 shots in the contest.
With the win, the Marlies improve to 2-0-0-0 on the season and will now set their sights on the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday, starting a busy three-in-three across New England.
Toronto: K. Rychel (2) (A. Johnsson, A. Nielsen), T. Liljegren (1) (C. Mueller, C. Greening), B. Smith (1) (J. Holl), A. Johnsson (1) (B. Smith, N. Soshnikov)
Goaltender: G. Sparks (30/33)
Utica: C. Bancks (1) (R. Boucher, N Goldobin), J. LaBate (1) (J. Subban, M. Chaput), A. D’Aoust (1) (R. Boucher, R. Bachman)
Goaltender: R. Bachman (30/34)
FROM THE SCORESHEET
- Kerby Rychel scored his second goal of the season to tie the game putting the Marlies on the board. Rychel led the Marlies last year in points with 52 (19 goals, 33 assists).
- Andrew Nielsen registered his second point of the season, picking up an assist on Rychel’s first period goal.
- Timothy Liljegren gave the Marlies the lead with his first-career American Hockey League goal with 28 seconds left in the first period.
- Chris Mueller registered his first point with the Toronto Marlies with the primary assist on Liljegren’s late first period goal. Mueller was third overall in the AHL last year in points (19 goals, 48 assists) with the Tucson Roadrunners.
- Colin Greening assisted on Liljegren’s goal, picking up his first as. Greening scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) with the Marlies in 69 games last season.
- Ben Smith collected his first goal of the Marlies season midway through the second period. Smith also had an assist on Johnsson’s game-winning goal in the third period, adding to his season total of three points.
- Justin Holl provided the lone assist on Smith’s second period goal.
- Andreas Johnsson’s game-winning goal was his first of the season. Last season, Johnsson ranked second on the Marlies in goals (20) and third in points (47).
- Nikita Soshnikov added an assist and has two points in the first two games.
- Garret Sparks stopped 30 of 33 shots for his second win of the season. Sparks improves to 2-0-0-0 in the season with a .925 Save Percentage and a 2.00 Goals Against Average.
- Toronto went two-for-four on the penalty kill and two-for-seven on the power play.
- Toronto had a 34-33 edge in shots in all situations.
- Marlies shot leader was Nikita Soshnikov with six shots on net.
- Ben Smith is the Marlies overall point leader with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) following this weekend’s games against Utica.
- The Marlies are 2-0-0-0 this season against the Comets (2-0-0-0 at home) and have six games remaining on the schedule against the Comets.
- The Marlies are 2-0-0-0 against North Division opponents this season.
On first two wins: You want to win every game so I would say it’s very important. I just talked to the guys back in the room and we have a lot of things that we need to fix, both sides of special teams and both sides of the puck at even strength. There were a lot of things that we need to clean up, more so than we would have expected coming out of this weekend. It’s a lot more fun to fix those things when you’re 2-0 and not 0-2. We are heading out on the road to try and make it 3-0 so everyone is in good spirits and I think everyone will come to work on Tuesday ready to go.
On the benefits of veteran experience: For Smith and Clune, it’s definitely experience. I thought Timashov played really well in both games. It’s a really good line for us. Smith is very responsible in the circle and Timashov really helps handle the puck and move the puck up the ice. Clune just does a lot of the work. Smith is showing that he has a lot to offer offensively as well.
-Sheldon Keefe, Marlies Head Coach
October 13 at Hartford – 7:15 p.m. ET
October 14 at Providence – 7:05 p.m. ET
October 15 at Springfield – 3:05 p.m. ET
October 21 vs Charlotte – 4:00 p.m. ET
October 22 vs Charlotte – 4:00 p.m. ET
The Toronto Marlies will look to repeat Saturday’s success when they face off against the Utica Comets for the second time in as many days on Sunday afternoon.
The Marlies took the opening game by a 3-1 final, powered by goals from Rich Clune, Kerby Rychel and Nikita Soshnikov, as well as a stellar performance between the pipes from Garret Sparks.
Utica gave the Marlies seven power play opportunities in Saturday’s match-up, and the Marlies converted once. Toronto will look to capitalize on the man advantage in Sunday’s contest, as head coach Sheldon Keefe spoke of room for improvement on special teams following Saturday’s win.
“Our power play last year, even when we were struggling to score at even strength, our power play carried us through a good chunk of the season and we want that to be a weapon for us,” Keefe said. “As you saw today, there is a lot of room for improvement there.”
Defensively, the Marlies will look to again shut down the Comets. In Saturday’s contest, Utica managed only 20 shots, including just six in the final frame. The Marlies also went 3-for-4 on the penalty kill, and killed off a 5-on-3 midway through the second in yesterday’s game.
Puck drop for today’s game is scheduled for 4:00 pm. Tickets are still available, or you can watch the action live on TV on Leafs Nation Network or online at AHL Live.
IMPORTANT REMINDER FOR FANS ATTENDING TODAY’S GAME:
Please note that as an additional security measure for the 2017-18 season, no re-entry is permitted after you have exited Ricoh Coliseum gates. There are no longer any in-and-out privileges.