March 25, 2014
TORONTO– The Toronto Marlies picked up two points in an important division matchup Tuesday against the Rochester Americans. However, head coach Steve Spott wasn’t pleased with how much rubber goaltender Garret Sparks had to stop to make it happen.
Toronto gave up 44 shots to Rochester, including 20 in the second period alone, but skated away with a 3-1 victory. While the win gives the Marlies a 13-point cushion on the Americans for top spot in the North Division with 12 games to play, it wasn’t the type of performance Spott wants from his club with the playoffs approaching.
“(There) is a lot of concern,” Spott said about giving up so many shots. “We’ve been a team that’s held teams to 25 or 26 shots a night. Believe me when I say it, we’re going to dial it right back and get back to our hockey, which is not allowing over 40 shots a night. That’s not a game I want to play, nor something I will accept out of that room.
“Garret Sparks and our defence did a great job keeping us in the game and earning us two points.”
Sparks earned the game’s first star with his performance against Rochester and has now won his past six straight starts. In those games he’s compileds a 1.95 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
Those numbers are much better than when he started the beginning of the season 0-3-0 with a 4.10 goals-against average and .848 save percentage.
“He’s been really good, he came in here, had an opportunity to be an overage player with the Guelph Storm, but he’s earned his right to play professional hockey,” said Spott. “It’s great for the organization to have a young man like that.
“His body needed some work, he had to get in the gym, watch the diet, and he’s done all that. (Goalie coach) Piero Greco deserves a lot of credit as well.”
The Marlies looked more like a top-nine and bottom-three setup with their forward lines against Rochester rather than its regular top-six and bottom-six.
Spott wasn’t pleased with the response from his forwards and how they came out against the Americans, which will likely lead to changes in the lineup before next game.
“(Rochester) dictated the pace, dictated the play,” said Spott. “Our twelve forwards certainly have to be better. We have to be smarter, manage our sticks better and not put our goaltending and our team in a bad spot.
“There are 18 forwards (on the Marlies roster) right now so we’ll try different things down the stretch.”
Spencer Abbott, Greg McKegg and Trevor Smith scored for the Marlies while Peter Holland picked up an assist, giving him three goals and seven points in six games with the Marlies.
“Peter’s probably, if not the best, one of the best puck distributors in the American Hockey League,” said Spott. “Let’s be honest, he’s an NHL centreman.”
The Marlies have only given up more than 40 shots in a game five times this season and are 2-3-0. After Wednesday they are averaging 30.7 shots-against per game.