Oct. 7th, 2013
TORONTO– While an abundance of rookies were in the Marlies lineup this past weekend, it was two veterans that led them to ba
ck-to-back victories to open the season.
Defenceman T.J. Brennan scored his first career hat trick and set up Trevor Smith’s overtime winner on Saturday as Toronto opened their season at home with a 4-3 overtime win against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I think that’s a first for me there,” said Brennan about his hat trick. “I just wanted to start the season off simple. You throw it to the net and good things can happen. I got a couple lucky bounces.”
Rookie David Broll chipped in with two assists for the Marlies while Smith added an assist for a two-point outing.
Goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 27-of-30 shots for the victory.
Toronto had a run of penalties in the third period that could have been disastrous, however their penalty kill came up large. First they killed off back-to-back minors picked up by Brad Ross and then a five-minute major, which was handed to Andrew MacWilliam for boarding with just over five minutes left in regulation.
“I’m really proud of our team for killing that off at that moment of the game,” said Brennan.
Toronto went 2-for-8 on the power play while Grand Rapids failed to score on six chances with the man advantage.
Smith and Brennan continued to make an impact for the Marlies on Sunday in a 5-1 victory over the visiting Lake Erie Monsters.
Smith scored two goals, including the game winner, and added an assist for Toronto while Brennan had a goal and assist.
“So far so good,” said Smith of the pair Marlies victories. “These are the good times, you got to really embrace them. There’s going to be some learning times coming this way so we’ve just got to embrace the wins.”
Rookie Tyler Biggs, who is looking to carve out a role this season, scored shorthanded for the Marlies and Greg McKegg added an empty-net goal.
“Energy, third line and penalty kill. Eventually second-unit power play,” Marlies coach Steve Spott said about where he sees Biggs.
MacIntyre made 20 saves for the win.
Toronto went 1 for 8 with the man advantage while Lake Erie scored once on five power-play opportunities.
NHL veteran John-Michael Liles made his Marlies debut and logged big minutes even strength and both sides of special teams. Spott was impressed with what he saw from the 32-year-old.
“He’s always talking on the bench and calming guys down on the back end,” said Spott. “His experience is invaluable to us right now.”
Prospect Jesse Blacker sat both games as a coach’s decision, as did veteran Dylan Yeo.
Both Spencer Abbott and Jamie Devane were in the lineup Sunday against the Monsters after being sent down from the Maple Leafs.
They gave us two different elements,” said Spott of the returnees. “Spencer gives us some skill and he plays a skilled high-tempo type game. Jamie obviously gives us some physicality and grit.”
The Marlies don’t play again until next Saturday when they host the St John’s IceCaps.
Here are the Toronto Marlies hot performers for the week of Sept. 29 to Oct. 5. (Note: the regular cold performers will be added in next edition )
Season Stats: 2 GP 4 G 2 A 6 PTS
Brennan is expected to be used for his offence on the back end, but no one saw four goals and six points in two games coming. The 24-year-old is in his fifth AHL season and wants to improve his two-way game, which he feels is the best way to get a sniff from the Maple Leafs.
Season Stats: 2 GP 3 G 2 A 5 PTS
Smith was credited with the game-winning goal in both contests this weekend and will log heavy minutes all season. The newly-appointed captain is the only proven AHL goal scorer on the Marlies and with so much responsibility being thrown his way he’ll have ample opportunity to be a point-per game player.
Season Stats: 2 GP 2-0-0 1.95 GAA .922 SV%
The Marlies easily could have dropped their matchup with the Griffins if it wasn’t for MacIntyre’s ability to keep his club in the game. The veteran keeper was most noticeable early in the second period as Toronto was on a run of being outshot 17-4, as well as in the third period when his team was shorthanded for seven straight minutes.
Look for the weekly Toronto Marlies hot and cold performers every Monday.