A Friday night tilt against a Lehigh Valley Phantoms team playing their sixth game in 11 days should have been the perfect recipe for Toronto to convincingly recover from Wednesday’s embarrassing loss.
The struggling Phantoms had lost four games in a row on their way to Toronto and played in Rochester on Friday night.
Instead, Toronto came slowly out of the blocks and never really got going at any point. At no stage has the marlies imposed themselves on their opponents and they were lucky enough to score two points in the standings after this performance.
Before the game, Greg Moore talked about the reaction his team needed, but that was hardly noticeable from the opening face-off.
In another undisciplined performance from Toronto, Kurtis Gabriel got an entry alty within the first two minutes. Three seconds after the penalty expired, Morgan Forst headed towards the hashmarks and took the corner, beating Michael Hutchinson by a large margin for his third goal of the season.
Toronto forfeited their first-man advantage of the game, but it was no surprise that neither team was able to capitalize in that regard – given the numbers, this game featured the two worst power plays in the league.
The Phantoms really should have doubled their lead over Jackson Cates with five minutes to go in the period after a marlies revenue. However, they did not have to wait long for a deserved second goal.
After the marlies Isaac Ratcliffe coughed up the puck during a rare offensive zone raid that led to a strange rush the other way, Isaac Ratcliffe served the puck to Cates, who was again denied before the rebound fell back to Ratcliffe for a tap-in. It was as easy a goal as the forward will score this year and underlined the difference in work pace between the two teams.
The marlies registered just four shots in the opening frame, only one of which went below the face-off dots.
If you had told me that the marlies napped between periods, I might have believed you. At the beginning of the period, they came out sleepwalking again. There was no pace or competitive intensity to their game.
There was only one shot from Josh Ho-Sang after five minutes that put Pat Nagle to the test between the pipes. Hayden Hodgson squandered a big opportunity for the Phantoms to further extend the lead, but it looked like Lehigh could hold onto their 2-0 advantage for 40 minutes of play.
That was until Toronto scored a goal out of nowhere. It was like a switch – for the first time in the game, the Marlies cast a spell of offensive zone pressure.
It didn’t result in a goal initially, but they halved the deficit on the next zone entry. Brett Seney sent the puck back to Joseph Duszak on the right flank, where the defender already knew what he was going to do. Left alone at the far post, Marc Michaelis only had to divert Duszak’s past Nagle, who had no chance on goal.
To his credit, Philadelphia’s branch is rolling up their sleeves and trying to hit back immediately after conceding a sloppy goal. They created three excellent scoring opportunities in the closing minutes of the frame. The best of these fell on Hodgson, whose effort from the slot could have cut Hutchinson’s path before hitting the post and rolling to safety.
With a little more puck luck, it’s conceivable that Lehigh could have comfortably won this match. The Phantoms hit the post again in the opening minute of the third period.
The equalizer that came at 3:34 on the clock, owed a lot to Ho-Sang and a good dose of luck.
Ho-Sang did a good job keeping the puck in the Lehigh zone with an inside-outside move on Cooper Zech. The winger then sent a pass behind goal for Curtis Douglas, who held onto possession and did something about it, dropping the puck back onto the unmarked Ho-Sang waiting at the right faceoff spot. A quick release found Rich Clune’s left skate providing a screen in front of and beyond Nagle.
Regardless of the intent of the game or how bad the offense really was, Joey Anderson’s recklessness in his boarding alty was not what the Marlies needed at this stage. It closed out the right winger’s evening and gave the Phantoms a five-minute power play.
Lehigh did almost nothing with the extra man, making only one shot, and neither team seemed too likely to score the decisive next goal. Former Marlie Garrett Wilson fired wide on a breakaway with minutes to go, while a try by Seney with seconds left came the closest to a regulation win.
The three-on-three game was restrained for the most part.
Gerry Mayhew had a chance of just 20 seconds, but he waited a fraction too long to get his shot off and it was deflected high into the net. Pavel Gogolev then hit an attempt off the iron, leaving Toronto into the last minute of extra time without a shot being shot at the net.
A shooting seemed inevitable until a piece of individual brilliance arrived courtesy of Ho-Sang. He picked up the puck in the neutral zone and flew to the net with blistering speed, danced quite a bit around Cam York with some slick puck skills and beat Nagle cleanly to secure the extra point.
Josh Ho-Sang scores a BEAUTIFUL OT winner pic.twitter.com/LSieM4AmQu
— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) Nov 20, 2021
Comments after the game
– Toronto has collected points in seven of their last eight games. How long such form will last if this kind of performance continues is the question mark.
– The power play is now 8.9% of the league and has not scored in five consecutive games (0/18).
– Josh Ho-Sang delivered two pieces of individual brilliance that went a long way to win this game for the Marlies. His goal and an assist gave him his fourth multi-point haul this season (now on eight goals, 12 points in 12 games of the season).
“He was kind of a mirror image of the team by finding his game in the second half,” said Greg Moore. “Because he is so skilled and creative he is sometimes hard to read. When he plays within a system he has more impact. When the right time in the game is for him to open up and use the skill like He did at the winning goal there, it sparkles.”
– Joseph Duszak and Brett Seney both registered a few assists. Duszak has 10 assists in as many games and drives a streak of four game points. Seney has five points in his last two games and 11 points in the season, surpassing his production in over 30 games with Binghamton last season.
– Michael Hutchinson hit 24 of the 26 shots to the side. For my money, it wasn’t exactly the rebound performance that Moore and the players described after the game. He got lucky a few times and with a better finish, Lehigh could and should have gone past him a few more.
– Kyle Clifford made his Marlies debut in limited minutes on a fourth line with Rich Clune and Curtis Douglas. “You just know exactly what you’re going to get: a super competitive person who’s going to outshine everyone else,” Moore said. “He knows his game, how to make an impact and how to tip the ice in the right direction. His leadership on the bench today came a long way. He said a lot of the right things to certain guys in a very positive way with some lessons learned. His experience in managing the game, knowing where the clock is and where the game is really helped us today.”
– The rules of Saturday:
Steeves – SDA – Anderson
Seney – Michaelis – Ho-Sang
Gogolev – Abramov – Gabriel
Clifford – Douglas – Clune
King – Biega
Rubins – Duszak
Dahlstrom – Menell