(photo: Toronto Marlies)
The Griffins, currently sitting at the bottom of the AHL’s Western Conference Central Division with only 1 win in 7 games, were simply no match for the Eastern Conference North Division top seed.
Toronto took control of the game almost immediately with William Nylander #62 (assists: Panik, Corrado) putting his first of two goals past the Griffins Jared Coreau #31 at the 1:46 mark. Seven minutes later, with Grand Rapids’ Mitch Callahan in the box on a tripping penalty, Ryan Rupert #20 (assists: Frattin, Brennan) slid another past Coreau to take the Marlies up 2-0.
The 2nd Period fared no better for the west-Michigan team as Nylander again found space between Coreau and the pipes to slide one in for the first goal of the period at 11:49 (assists: Leivo, Panik). Five minutes later, Toronto’s T. J. Brennan again scored, and the Marlies left the period up by 4.
The Griffins took to the ice to start the 3rd Period with the power play advantage, created when Marlies defender Rinat Valiev #61 was sent to the penalty box for interference at the 19:55 mark of the 2nd period. Grand Rapids took full advantage of the power play opportunity and scored 18 seconds in. The goal by center Andreas Athanasiou #12 (assists: Miele, Ouellet) marked the first, and only, scoring drive by the Griffins. The Marlies answered late in the game with two more goals: the first at 16:23 by Josh Leivo #14 (assists: Panik, Leipsic), and the last at 19:08 by Brendan Leipsic #19 (assists: Frattin, Valiev).
The game was very physical and tensions ran high. Perhaps spurred by Grand Rapids defeat of the Marlies in game five of the Calder Cup quarterfinals last spring, or just born out of the natural competition between the two primary affiliates of Original 6 teams, the penalty box was an active place during the game, with Toronto amassing a total of 10 penalties and Grand Rapids 11. While the majority of these penalties were the “standard” roughing, boarding, high sticking, etc., two definitely fell into the realm of serious. At 14:14 in the 3rd Period, Griffins Center Andy Miele #21 grabbed a 10-minute major for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Four and half minutes later, Griffins left-winger Tyler Bertuzzi #39 received a match penalty for slew-footing. On the same play, Toronto center Sam Carrick #16 received a 10-minute major for physical abuse of officials.
The real work of the night however, had to be the solid performance of Toronto net minder Garret Sparks #40 who allowed only one goal on 39 shots. Grand Rapids Jared Coreau #31 allowed 6 goals against 34 shots.
This game was a solid performance by the top-seated Marlies, while the performance by Grand Rapids shows that work still needs to be done to bring this 2013 Calder Cup champion back into contention at this early point in the season.