Bracco's Three-Assists Help Lift Marlies Over Comets
Toronto (6) Utica (3) Final
Thursday, January 10, 2019
The Toronto Marlies entered Wednesday four points back of the Utica Comets for third place in the North Division, albeit with three fewer games played than their visiting opponent. A divisional showdown would take place at the Coca-Cola Coliseum in front of a reasonably sized Toronto crowd and certainly proved to be an unequivocally close match-up. It turned out that the defending champs were up to the task in their search for a playoff spot as the Marlies head down the stretch.
Toronto began the contest with a lightning in a bottle mentality until they were finally able to break through offensively. Vincent LoVerde located Dmytro Timashov in order to break up ice with puck control into the offensive zone, where Colin Greening would go on to join the rush and make his mark on the game. The man in question received a crisp pass from his teammate, Timashov, and effectively finished the play off with a clean snipe by goaltender Ivan Kulbakov. His third goal of the season would give the home fans something to cheer about just over nine minutes into the game, setting the tone early. Much of the credit goes to Timashov for finding an open man, despite a cluster of traffic clogging the middle of the ice.
It didn’t take long, just 1:39 to be exact, for Utica to find their way onto the scoreboard and even things up. Tanner Kero managed to notch his team’s first goal as the puck was dislodged from Kaskisuo’s attempt to smother it and the Comets were able to capitalize as a result.
Before the end of the opening frame, an errant puck was caught mid-air by Calle Rosen at the blue line before promptly dropping it to his own stick and rifling a quick point-shot. Somehow, that shot found its way through a flurry of bodies to restore Toronto’s one goal lead. Rosen's presence has been felt this season and he has effectively anchored the Marlies’ blue line since Travis Dermott and Justin Holl graduated to the NHL, not to mention the absences of both Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin from the current roster.
Jeremy Bracco posted an assist on the play, which proved to be significant because he would leave as the AHL’s sole leader of the statistic by game's end.
Moments later, Pierre Engvall added to the fun with a goal of his own just under three minutes later. A broken play saw the puck come off of the end-boards and onto Engvall’s stick, to which he made no mistake and added an insurance tally for Toronto. Jeremy Bracco would be awarded his second assist to increase his league-leading tally to 28, continuing his breakout season with yet another multi-assist effort.
As the second period rolled around, Trevor Moore went on to score in what was his return to the AHL, and did so without missing a beat. After not having played for the Marlies since December 22nd as a result of his call-up to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Moore propelled Toronto ahead by three to make it 4-1 with a hard-nose goal near the crease area—his 18th tally of the season. To put that into perspective, Moore sits just four goals behind the AHL’s league-leader, Chris Terry, despite playing in ten fewer games.
Unfortunately, the Marlies were unable to escape the second frame with a three goal advantage like they had intended, instead, succumbing to Tanner Kero’s second goal of the evening shortly before the second intermission. The score read 4-2 in favour of Toronto at the buzzer.
Intermission served as an opportunity for Utica to rekindle the spark felt at the end of the previous frame. The Comets would open the third period with a vengeance and produced a quick strike off the blade of Brendan Gaunce merely 1:39 in, cutting Toronto’s lead to just a single goal with a whole lot of time remaining to find an equalizer. However, the Marlies had other plans in mind as Calle Rosen went on to record his second goal of the evening with a silky sweet bar-down snipe. The play also featured Bracco’s third assist of the game to extend his league-leading stat to 29, three ahead of the next closest player.
As the game arrived at its conclusion, the Marlies had added an empty-net goal courtesy of Carl Grundstrom, in what would seal the deal for a deceivingly narrow 6-3 victory. Following the win, I asked Head Coach Sheldon Keefe about the urgency of winning moving forward after leapfrogging Cleveland into 4th place of the North Division;
“I think we’ve been trending in the right direction as a team, we recognize what we’ve gone through in terms of being inconsistent. We’re right about the half-way point here, so we want to grow and continue to get better ... our guys have met that challenge, it’s a tough segment of the schedule here for us right now, in terms of the quality of competition, it’s not going to get any easier this weekend but we like where our game’s at and like how we’ve dealt with our injuries and things of that nature, and the guys have done well so they feel good about themselves.”
Additionally, I asked Trevor Moore if he had picked anyone’s brain from the NHL level during his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, to which he cited John Tavares as someone he took advice from;
“I tried to talk to everyone a little bit and everyone was really good about talking to me. You can talk to John Tavares for hours about hockey, the guy is extremely intelligent about the game and he loves it a lot. So it’s cool.”
He also added that today was not his best game and noted that there is room for improvement;
“I thought I was okay. I don’t think it was my best game, but I mean it was kind of a tough game. They played hard. It was a little bit back and forth, so there’s room to improve for sure.”
Photo credit: @TorontoMarlies