Banners on the Road – Toronto Marlies vs Hershey Bears 16/2/13

Toronto Marlies 2-1 Hershey Bears

Crescenzi              Wellman

Connolly

IMAG0445

Pre game: This was the last day for me in Canada so what better way to end than another game and this time against the AHL affiliate of the team I support (Washington). This time however we were in section 100, right on the red line and just above the entrance way for the Marlies who actually have to come down stairs to get the to ice. The view at centre ice in the Ricoh Coliseum is excellent and there is no blind spot.

Both teams came into the game having lost to exactly the same team. The Marlies had lost against their big rivals the Hamilton Bulldogs on the Tuesday night by a score of 3-2 having lost to the Stars by the same score the Saturday before whereas the Bears played in Hamilton the day before this game, dropping the decision to the Bulldogs in the shootout.

The game: Hershey came into the game with Danny Sabourin between the pipes whereas there was a débutante in net for the Marlies. With Jussi Rynnas having been called up to the Maple Leafs with the injury to James Reimer, AHL veteran Drew MacIntyre was signed to a professional tryout contract during the week and made his first appearance for Toronto.

The Marlies started the game a lot brighter than they ended the game against Texas and early pressure helped the hosts draw a penalty from Hershey as Cameron Schilling. Sadly the powerplay completely fell flat and did nothing for anybody bar the Bears. Mattias Sjogren had the best chance as he charged in shorthanded towards the Toronto goal but MacIntyre was equal to the task.

Toronto however were looking the better team 5 on 5 and made the early pressure tell albeit with a fortunate bounce. A bobbling puck gave Andrew Crescenzi and Simon Gysbers a two on one opportunity however Crescenzi didn’t need his team mate as he expertly fired the puck between the wickets of Sabourin to notch his 1st goal in the AHL at 4:20.

The game settled into a back and forth as both teams appeared to have found their feet. Ryan Stoa took advantage of a delayed penalty against the Marlies to try and score but was denied by a fantastic save by MacIntyre who flashed the glove.

The Bears had their first opportunity on the powerplay just over 7 minutes in as Tim Connolly was called for hooking but the Hershey powerplay looked even more lost than the Toronto special teams unit had early on.

The Marlies were keeping a hold on the game, some good passing giving Mike Mottau a good chance from the blueline that Sabourin blockered away from the danger zone but they were still guilty of some defensive zone sloppiness at times. A monster turnover in the zone gifted Hershey a chance but Sjogren was again denied by a top drawer save from MacIntrye.

Simon Gysbers was sent to the box for crosschecking at 16:42 and this time the Bears powerplay unit had come to play. The passing was crisper and they looked more dangerous, the best chance falling to Jeff Taffe but his wrap around chance was stopped by a combination of MacIntyre and Jake Gardiner.

The first period ended 1-0 to Toronto which was a fair score considering the action in the first 20 minutes of action.

Sadly for the Marlies they were immediately on the back foot at the start of the second as Mottau was called for hooking pretty much off the faceoff as the Bears rushed to the net. Steve Olesky had a good chance as some excellent passing gave him space but MacIntyre made the save. There was no joy on that powerplay but the next one would give Hershey a lifeline.

With Connolly in the box for a borderline slashing call, the Bears special teams unit finally fired on all cylinders. Off the turnover McNeill found Ryan Potulny who got the puck to Casey Wellman in the slot who fired past MacIntyre at 23:12, despite being knocked to the ice in the process.

The Marlies had a chance almost straight away on the powerplay as Garrett Mitchell was called for goaltender interference but sadly for the Marlies they couldn’t get their powerplay to do what the Bears had done on theirs. They were however still the better side and regained their advantage a few minutes later.

After a period of sustained pressure from the Marlies, Nicolas Deschamps fed the puck to Connolly who used the defenceman in front of Sabourin as a screen to fire the puck short side into the goal at 28:27. It almost went sour right away as Deschamps fired a hospital pass that set Sjogren away on another breakaway but he lost the battle to MacIntyre once again.

The Marlies third line was causing havoc for the Bears all night as D’Amigo and Crescenzi kept forechecking and forced a turnover but Crescenzi couldn’t find a way to pot his second of the contest.

The Marlies maintained their well earned lead through 40 minutes as they hunted for their 1st win in a week.

Toronto were back on the powerplay shortly after the start of the 3rd period as Matt Pope was called for hooking but Ryan Hamilton coughed the puck up to John DiSalvatore but again MacIntyre was equal to the task. The Bears had another golden chance as Taffe fed Boyd Kane but again MacIntyre denied the Bears an equaliser.

The Marlies were still very much in the game however and had a chance to put the game to bed but Carter Ashton missed a yawning cage off of a rebound.

The period fell into a pattern of Hershey pressing but Toronto pushing the Bears to the outside and snuffing out the chances. There was a lot of hustle but no bite from the Bears. Sabourin went to the bench with 2 minutes to play but the Bears just couldn’t find a way to get a meaningful shot on net, compounded when as they attempted to gain the zone with 3 seconds to play, the Bears were called offside.

The buzzer sounded and Drew MacIntyre’s first appearance in Marlies colours had gone his way.

The Marlies and Bears in action.

The Marlies and Bears in action.

The Marlies: It was a much better and direct performance than the previous game against the Texas Stars. The third line of Greg Scott, Jerry D’Amigo and Andrew Crescenzi were outstanding all night. Their forechecking was excellent, they caused turnovers and generally didn’t give any Hershey line they faced room to breathe. There was a lot of pressure from the Marlies forwards across all the lines but none had the effectiveness of that line crashing and banging about.

Drew MacIntyre pretty much a dream début in net bar the powerplay goal he conceded. He was faced a few high pressure situations that he easily handled, he saw shots through traffic and frustrated Bears forwards all night. Crescenzi and MacIntyre were the 1st and 2nd stars respectively and it wasn’t a big surprise.

The Marlies looked a lot better on this night than they did versus Texas. There was jump, there was direction and they just looked more up for it than Hershey. It was reassuring to see what Toronto could when they played well rather than the somewhat headless chicken act against Texas. They played well and ground out a result though there was room to play better and make a real drive to win their division.

The Bears: Bears fans will see the scoreline for this game and think the game was close. It wasn’t sadly, the Bears looked sluggish and lacked offensive potency.

Danny Sabourin was actually pretty decent in net and had MacIntyre not played so spectacularly people would have likely sung his praises a bit more in this game. Sadly for the rest of the Hershey squad, bar the goal there wasn’t much to really shout about.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some positives; this Bears squad is incredibly hard working and has decent puck movement but it looked like a team with 4 third lines. There was no attacking power and bar breakaways that the Marlies gave up there never seemed to be any real scoring threat. Yes, Hershey were playing road hockey to some extent but even then you can play road hockey and look threatening. Some may say that sounds harsh but this is someone who has a vested interest in Hershey doing well as a Capitals fan and I was left disappointed by what I saw sadly.

I should give the massive travelling crowd from Giant Centre some credit though, loads travelled from Hershey to the game and that’s not a short journey.

Overall: This was the last thing of note I did in Canada and it didn’t disappoint. The seats in one of those centre blocks at the Ricoh Coliseum are really worth the money you pay for them and it was a decent game to watch as well.

The Bears can’t afford to play like that on a nightly basis with teams so close together in the race for the Eastern Conference playoff places. There was potential there but they had a very off afternoon in Toronto.

As for the Marlies, it was the first win after two disappointing losses against Texas and Hamilton and they showed that they are capable of delivering the goods. With James Reimer set to return to the Leafs lineup before too long, Jussi Rynnas will return to the Marlies soon so what happens to Drew MacIntyre remains to be seen but he can only do what he can with the opportunity given to him and he did so on this night.

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

More photos from this game can be seen here.

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