📝 by Patrick Williams
The Toronto Marlies’ American Hockey League tour continues this weekend.
Next stop: Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The Marlies visit the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in tonight’s AHLTV Free Game of the Week (7 ET/4 PT), the fourth contest in a 10-game road trip that extends through Feb. 3 and takes the team to seven AHL cities.
Toronto’s six-game winning streak ended Wednesday night with a 5-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack, but head coach Greg Moore is happy with his team’s direction. The Marlies hold down third place in the North Division with a 17-11-1-1 record (.600) going into this weekend.
“There was definitely a lot of skill on the ice for both teams,” Moore said after Wednesday’s game. “I thought for the most part the feel and the pace of the game was probably one of the faster games we’ve played all season. I thought our team competed really hard.
“They were really dialed in to executing our plan, and the process is in the right place. Ultimately, a couple turnovers…against a very skilled team ended up in the back of our net, but for the most part [I am] really happy with how our team went about the game and what our effort was.”
Moore has been particularly happy with young defenseman Filip Král, who was named the AHL Player of the Week after he collected six points (two goals, four assists) in four games last week. The 22-year-old left-shot defender is up to 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 28 appearances after picking up another assist against Hartford. The parent Toronto Maple Leafs took him as a fifth-round pick in the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, and he is making a smooth adjustment after dividing last season between Czech club HC Kometa Brno and the Marlies.
“The [holiday] break, I think, was good timing for him,” Moore said of Král. “He had a great training camp, great start of the season. [A young] pro experiencing all those steps, going into the regular season, sometimes that grind can get long, and a lot of players have their ups and downs throughout the season. You’re starting to feel the length of the year already before Christmas, and then that Christmas break refreshed him. He’s been awesome since, finding a lot of confidence again with the puck.
“One of his superpowers is being calm under pressure, escaping pressure, and being able to make plays under that pressure. So he looks a lot more like himself, very energetic, and also using [his] skating very well to be able to manipulate the pressure to go in a direction that he’s going to open up and use.”
The Marlies also have benefited from Joey Anderson’s return from the Leafs. He had a hat trick in a last Sunday’s 4-3 overtime win against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and he is up to 13 goals and 18 points through 23 games clicking on a top line with Brett Seney and Antti Suomela.
“When I’m away from [the Marlies] for awhile, it’s exciting when I get to see them again,” Anderson said, “and [it] always just kind of fires me up.”
While with the Leafs on taxi-squad duty, Anderson made sure to remain as game-ready as possible.
“I mean, it’s a tough thing to juggle with,” Anderson acknowledged. “Definitely a skill set that you’ve got to work toward and a mentality that you’ve got to just always kind of be ready. It’s different when you’re practicing, but I think a big thing is just when you are in practice and getting reps of any kind, it’s just touching pucks as much as you can and practicing with a lot of pace.
“It doesn’t have to be a long practice, but just make sure when you are getting your reps that you’re going as hard as you can and making sure that you’re bringing a pace that you’re going to use in a game.”
Moore confirmed that forward Josh Ho-Sang is out with a concussion, the latest injury for the Marlies who have been without defensemen Teemu Kivihalme and Brennan Menell along with forwards Nick Robertson and Marc Michaelis.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 11-16-1-3 (.419) and broke an eight-game winless streak (0-7-0-1) last weekend with back-to-back victories against the rival Phantoms and Hershey Bears. Those wins eased some of the pressure on a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team that is in the middle of a stretch of seven games in 11 nights, including a rematch with Toronto on Saturday night.
According to the Penguins, a timetable for goaltending prospect Filip Lindberg (lower body) to return has been “downgraded.” The 22-year-old Lindberg, who was named the AHL Goaltender of the Month for October, has been out of the lineup since Nov. 12. Veteran Louis Domingue remains with the parent Pittsburgh Penguins and Tommy Nappier missed Wednesday’s 3-1 home loss to Lehigh Valley, so the goaltending workload in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is with Alex D’Orio.
WOLF PACK ON THE HUNT
Having just handled the Marlies, another major test awaits the Hartford Wolf Pack with a two-game visit to the Hershey Bears this weekend.
The Wolf Pack (17-10-3-2, .609) and Bears (18-11-3-2, .603) are among the leading contenders in the Atlantic Division, jockeying with Providence and Springfield for the top four spots in the standings.
Recalls to the New York Rangers hit the Wolf Pack particularly hard at the end of December, and at one point they were without eight of their top 10 scorers and much of their goaltending. But with those departures, Hartford has relied on roster depth and a parade of recalls to take on bigger roles. Second-year forward Austin Rueschhoff had two goals against Toronto, giving him a four-game goal streak in which he has struck six times.
So slowly, the Wolf Pack roster is coming together again. Hartford has head coach Kris Knoblauch back from the Rangers after he had filled in while Gerard Gallant was out due to NHL COVID-19 protocols. Keith Kinkaid returned in net last Saturday night and shut out Laval, 4-0, before holding the Marlies in check with 28 saves on Wednesday. Hartford also has seen captain and leading scorer Jonny Brodzinski; top forwards Tim Gettinger, Anthony Greco, Justin Richards and Lauri Pajuniemi; and rookie defenseman Zac Jones shuffling between the Pack roster and New York in recent days.
The Wolf Pack added Nils Lundkvist, the Rangers’ first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, to their blue line last week, and might also have another big addition in defenseman Tarmo Reunanen this weekend; Reunanen has only played twice since Dec. 19 for Hartford, which is already without Braden Schneider (recall).
LIFT-OFF IN LAVAL
Laval scored a major win Wednesday night at Place Bell.
Peter Abbandonato’s power-play goal with 4:20 to go in regulation sent the Rocket past the visiting Utica Comets, 4-3. Jesse Ylönen provided a pair of goals, and veteran goaltender Kevin Poulin had 29 saves.
The Rocket have three wins in four games since returning to action after a 25-day hiatus, and have won eight of their last 10 overall. Laval is idle again this weekend.
STAAL RETURNS TO THE AHL
That game, a 4-3 Iowa win against the visiting Chicago Wolves, was Staal’s first appearance in the AHL since May 14, 2005, with the Lowell Lock Monsters. Staal, 37, had five points (two goals, three assists) in his four appearances with Iowa.
On Wednesday, Mason Shaw’s first career hat trick in a four-point performance helped the Wild overcome a 3-1 second-intermission deficit to defeat the visiting Manitoba Moose, 4-3. Iowa hits the road this weekend for a pair of games with the Colorado Eagles.
MAROTTE ROLLING IN SAN DIEGO
Francis Marotte’s fortunes have changed quickly and dramatically.
A second-year pro out of Robert Morris University (2016-19) and Clarkson University (2019-20), Marotte joined the San Diego Gulls on a one-year AHL deal prior to opening night and had spent most of the season with Allen of the ECHL. But with Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek on recall to the Anaheim Ducks, the Gulls have turned to Marotte.
Now Marotte has made five consecutive starts for the Gulls, two of them in back-to-back road wins this week. On Tuesday, he frustrated the San Jose Barracuda with 38 stops in a 4-2 victory. A night later, his 28 saves helped to pull out a 3-2 decision in Stockton. Through those five starts for San Diego, Marotte has gone 3-1-1.
In San Diego, Marotte has been able to work closely with veteran Jeff Glass, who has become a go-to mentor for Anaheim goaltending prospects.
“[Glass is] very, very helpful,” Marotte said. “He’s helped me a lot this year since I got here and gave me a couple of good tips here and there that made a huge difference in my games. So, I’m really grateful to have him on my side.”
AROUND THE AHL
🏒 Wednesday’s 6-3 home win against Tucson took the Bakersfield Condors’ point streak to 10 games (7-0-2-1). Seth Griffith supplied five assists for the fifth five-point game of his AHL career, and linemate Adam Cracknell posted his first hat trick in 595 career AHL contests (along with an assist). Griffith has a seven-game point streak during which he has racked up 15 points (three goals, 12 assists).
🏒 Playing without head coach Ian Laperriere (COVID-19 protocols), Lehigh Valley kicked off a five-game road swing with a 3-1 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday. The Phantoms are 8-1-2-1 since starting the season at 3-11-4-1.
🏒 The Charlotte Checkers have utilized a league-high seven goaltenders this season. The latest, Raleigh native Billy Christopoulos, made 26 saves in his Checkers debut on Thursday, a 4-2 win over Springfield. Antoine Bibeau and Joey Daccord are on recall to the Seattle Kraken, and Christopher Gibson remains injured.
🏒 The Syracuse Crunch are 6-1-1-0 since returning from their three-week hiatus Jan. 5. Captain Gabriel Dumont’s two goals against the Rochester Americans on Wednesday took the Crunch to a 3-2 overtime victory. Alex Barré-Boulet’s three assists give him seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past three contests.
🏒 Lineup shuffling has hit the Utica Comets recently. After an 18-1-2-0 start that also featured a league-record 13 consecutive wins to begin the season, Utica has gone 2-4-2-0 since New Year’s Eve. However, the Comets have goaltender Nico Daws back from injury and he has made back-to-back starts.
🏒 The AHL-leading Wolves also feature the league’s top three scorers. Captain Andrew Poturalski is up to 47 points (18 goals, 29 assists) in 30 games. In second place is Stefan Noesen with 18 goals and 19 assists in 30 outings, and sitting third overall is C.J. Smith, who has 36 points (12 goals, 24 assists) in 31 contests.
🏒 Cleveland Monsters forward Carson Meyer returned to the lineup last weekend after a month-long injury absence and has three goals along with an assist in three games. Meyer is an Ohio native who was a 2017 draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
🏒 Grand Rapids Griffins forward Jonatan Berggren’s four assists set up a 5-3 win at Cleveland this week.
🏒 Manitoba wrapped up a 4-1-1-0 road trip in Iowa on Wednesday; the Moose play 15 of their next 19 games on home ice. The Moose have also been returning to health with defensemen Declan Chisholm, Leon Gawanke, and Johnathan Kovacevic along with forwards Thomas Caron, Bobby Lynch, Cole Maier, and Evan Polei all back after absences.
🏒 Rockford IceHogs defenseman Alec Regula had four assists last Saturday in a 5-4 home loss to Cleveland. The four-assist effort was the first by a Rockford blueliner since Klas Dahlbeck did so Jan. 11, 2014. Rockford went 3-for-5 on the power play in the loss.
🏒 Colorado defenseman Jordan Gross had back-to-back three-assist games in a two-game home sweep of Milwaukee last weekend. He also scored a shootout goal in each victory. The Eagles have won five in a row and have points in seven straight (6-0-1-0).
🏒 Henderson Silver Knights defenseman Brayden Pachal has been named the team’s new captain.
🏒 The Ontario Reign carry a six-game points streak (4-0-1-1) into a pair of home games this weekend against the Tucson Roadrunners.
🏒 Due to league COVID-19 protocols, San Diego head coach Joël Bouchard will not be with the team for a pair of road games this weekend against the Abbotsford Canucks. Assistant coaches Max Talbot and Daniel Jacob will run the team’s bench for both games.
🏒 Stockton lost in regulation at home for just the second time this season, a 3-2 setback against San Diego on Wednesday. Justin Kirkland’s two goals gave him nine goals this season, tying a career high. The Pacific Division-leading Heat are 12-2-2-0 at home this season.
🏒 The expansion Coachella Valley Firebirds teased on social media this week that they will have an announcement on Jan. 24. The AHL’s 32nd franchise is scheduled to begin play in 2022-23 as the new affiliate of the Seattle Kraken.
🏒 Manitoba has taken sole control of the AHL lead with 2.42 goals-against per game. Ontario and Rochester each have a league-best 3.79 goals per game.
🏒 The Rochester power play (32-for-121) is at 26.4 percent to lead the AHL. Stockton continues to own the AHL’s number-one penalty kill at 89.3 percent (117-for-131).
🏒 Hershey will have sold-out crowds for the dates with Hartford this weekend at the 10,500-seat Giant Center. On Saturday the Bears are hosting their annual Teddy Bear Toss, the 20th such event in team history. In the 2019-20 season, the Bears collected a world-record 45,650 toys.
ON THE MOVE
🏒 Jack Quinn is back with the parent Buffalo Sabres and scored his first NHL goal Thursday night in a 5-4 home loss to the Dallas Stars. Quinn, 20, is tied for the AHL lead with 18 goals and ranks fourth with 35 points in just 24 games for Rochester this season. while also picking up an assist. The eighth overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Quinn had nine points in his last four AHL games prior to his recall, including a four-goal effort vs. Belleville on Jan. 15.
🏒 Ontario Reign forward Quinton Byfield played his first NHL game of the season with Los Angeles on Thursday night, a 4-1 home loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Byfield played 14:13 with three shots on a line between Carl Grundstrom and Dustin Brown. Byfield, the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, has six points in 11 games with the Reign this season.
🏒 Rockford forward Lukas Reichel returned from his first two NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks and immediately supplied a goal and an assist in a 5-3 home loss to the Wolves this past Monday. Reichel, 19, went 17th overall to the Hawks in the 2020 NHL Draft and has 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 21 AHL games this season. He also has eight points (four goals, four assists) during his current three-game point streak.
🏒 Ontario head athletic trainer Aisha Visram was recalled to the Kings to fill in on their training staff for their game Jan. 13. According to the Professional Hockey Athletic Trainers Society, she is the second woman ever to work behind an NHL bench.
🏒 Veteran goaltender Alex Stalock has joined Bakersfield as he continues his comeback from myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Stalock, 34, missed all of last season and has not played since a Stanley Cup Playoff game for the Edmonton Oilers on August 7, 2020. Stalock has made 200 career appearances in the AHL with Iowa, San Jose, Toronto, Worcester and Peoria.
Lehigh Valley goes to Charlotte for a pair of games beginning on Saturday. The Checkers are winding down a six-game homestand… Bridgeport stops in Providence tonight before the teams match up again Saturday night in Connecticut… The Syracuse-Utica rivalry resumes with another home-and-home series with the Crunch hosting tonight; the teams split wins last weekend’s home-and-home match-up… Rochester has a date tonight in Cleveland before the teams’ Saturday afternoon matinee… In the Western Conference, two-game sets start tonight featuring Texas-Rockford and Henderson-Stockton… Grand Rapids hosts Milwaukee on Saturday night in the lone game of the weekend for each team… The Barracuda visit Bakersfield on Saturday evening before the teams reconvene Sunday at SAP Center..
“It’s the buy-in. The guy [who] buys in for a few years and applies himself, it’s crazy what he can achieve.”
— San Diego Gulls head coach Joël Bouchard on undrafted prospect Bryce Kindopp’s progression. Kindopp made his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 4.
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for nearly two decades for outlets including NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports. He is currently the co-host of the Around the A Podcast. Patrick was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his outstanding coverage of the league in 2016.
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for nearly two decades for outlets including NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports. He is currently the co-host of the Around the A Podcast.
Patrick was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his outstanding coverage of the league in 2016.