April 7, 2014
TORONTO– After blowing a three-goal third period lead on Saturday against the Rochester Americans, Marlies head coach Steve Spott didn’t hesitate to call out his veterans—most notably team captain Trevor Smith.
The Marlies needed to pick up just one point against Rochester to secure a third straight North Division title. Instead, they allowed four unanswered goals, including two 15 seconds apart in the final minute of the game.
While Toronto played on the back of its heels basically for the final 40 minutes, in the third period it was outshot 19-3 and took costly penalties, including one by assistant captain Jerred Smithson with 3:49 to play in regulation that led to the Americans making it a one-goal game.
“The challenge I have is the guys that have the letters on their sweater,” Spott said post-game. “Our captain had the puck on his stick, didn’t get it deep and game over. They have to be better, they know that. I called them out after the game and I’m calling them out now.
“We expect our leadership group to be better.”
Smith, Smithson and assistant captain Korbinian Holzer listened to their coach and on Sunday bounced back with a 3-2 victory against the Utica Comets—a team that beat them 5-1 on Friday.
“They (responded) and not surprisingly,” said Spott. “Having the opportunity to work with Trevor Smith over the past few months, he’s probably one of the best captains I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. He does everything right.”
Prospect Sam Carrick scored twice for the Marlies and was given major praise by Spott for his effort.
“He’s one of those players that’s taken advantage of an opportunity,” said Spott. “He got the game puck in arguably one of the biggest games of the year. In my mind he’s turned himself into a legitimate NHL prospect.
“For me he’s the definition of our hockey club. He battles, he can fight and he can score.”
The victory against the Comets secured the Marlies the division title and no worse than third seed in the Western Conference.
“I’m very proud of our whole staff, our trainers, equipment people everyone has worked so hard,” said Spott. Not a lot of people gave this club an opportunity to make the playoffs let alone win the division. I’m very proud of these guys.”
Forwards Brandon Kozun and Spencer Abbott missed the weekend with injuries, which led to junior-aged prospect Fabrice Herzog getting in the lineup on Sunday for his pro debut.
Herzog played on a line with centre Greg McKegg and winger Carter Ashton.
Kozun is expected to return to the lineup this week while Abbott, the team’s leading scorer, is expected to miss up to four weeks with a shoulder injury.
On the back end, Toronto played Sunday without Andrew MacWilliam and Stuart Percy.
MacWilliam is out with a concussion while Percy missed the game after taking a “bump” against the Americans on Saturday.
“If it was playoffs he likely would have dressed,” said Spott.
Eric Knodel and Zachary Yuen were the beneficiaries, with Yuen making his AHL debut after spending the season in the ECHL, while Knodel got some time on the power play and picked up two assists—his first career points.
“Eric is a nice prospect for us,” said Spott. “He’s big, good hockey sense and very low threshold of panic with the puck.”