January 2, 2015
TORONTO– With the Marlies playing their best hockey as of late, the club has recently turned itself around in the standings and find themselves sniffing at a post-season position to start the new year.
After a nine-game losing streak in November, Toronto was sitting in the Western Conference cellar- 13 points out of the final playoff position. But the Marlies have gone 8-3-3 since snapping their drought on Dec. 2 and have moved within four points of the eighth seed.
With the AHL schedule packing most games into weekends, 12 of those 14 contests came in four sets of 3-in-3.
“It’s been quite a stretch here in December and we’ve reacted quite well to it,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen. “We want to continue on with that. Sometimes it’s mind over matter, so we have to make sure we stay mentally ready to go.”
The biggest reason for Toronto’s turnaround is that the club has finally started to produce offence, something they struggled with for far too long.
The Marlies averaged just 1.33 goals for per game in their first seven contests to open the season while going just 1 for 20 on the power play. Then, during their nine-game skid they found the back of the net only 13 times.
In the month of December the club produced 2.79 goals per game, and Matt Frattin led all scorers with six goals.
“Fratty’s picked his game up quite a bit, when he’s skating it lends a physical side to his game and that’s where he’s so effective,” said Dineen. “He’s such a powerful skater that when he’s stopping and starting he’s a hard guy to play against.”
Despite only collecting two assists in his past six games, rookie Connor Brown still leads the Marlies in scoring with eight goals and 24 points in 33 games.
Earning at least one point in 11-of-14 games may have the Marlies four points out of a playoff spot, but they are still too far down the standings to be concerned about winning a fourth straight North Division title. The Utica Comets have a 16-point edge on Toronto for the division lead.
The Marlies will host the San Antonio Rampage in back-to-back games starting Friday. Toronto enters 13-15-5.