CALGARY – Toronto had a leg up, no question about it. The primed Marlies faced a Stockton Heat squad that hasn’t played a game in nearly 11 months. The rust and inexperience are what killed Stockton last night.
For two teams that are directly affiliated with Canadian NHL teams, they really don’t see a lot of each other. The Toronto Marlies and Stockton Heat did not come across each other at all last season on their respective schedules. This is mostly because the AHL play tends to stay more catered to the immediate region, and international games only really come into play in the playoffs. The last time these two teams played each other was in April of 2015 where the Marlies had a stunning 7-4 victory. Since 2005, the Marlies have a 25-28 record against the Calgary organization between Omaha, Quad City, Abbotsford and Adirondack.
This year, they are slotted to at least open their season with a four-game series against each other, with other future games to be expected.
Andrew D’Agostini had the start after splitting the first four games against the Manitoba Moose. Through the first four starts this season, D’Agostini pumped out a 2.30 goals against average and a .912 save percentage. Meanwhile, Dustin Wolf got the start for the Heat in his first AHL game. He spent last season with the Everett Silvertips in the WHL and posted a .935 save percentage and a 1.88 goals against average.
Though Stockton was already off to the races with the first seven shots, Scott Pooley banked the first goal. Connor Zary, the first-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft by Calgary, gave up the puck in the slot, which set up perfectly for the Indiana-born Pooley to wring in on the Marlies first shot.
It wouldn’t be much longer where Toronto would grab their third power-play goal of the season. While controlling for most power play, former Heat forward Kenny Agostino took a shot from the point that knocked off Joey Anderson’s skate. The goal was part of a series of blasts that challenged Wolf, many where he didn’t have a leg to stand on.
After the first period, you could almost feel for Wolf. The 19-year-old had tough shots in the first period. The two goals he allowed were both ones that he didn’t have a chance on. For the second, it would have to be a tighter defensive game for the Heat.
It was nothing short of a squeaker. It barely got through Wolf, but Toronto was able to pounce on a short-handed opportunity to make it 3-0. Adam Ruzicka fumbled the puck in the corner for Stockton, sending it to a lane that Tyler Gaudet had created. The low flick on Wolf fooled the 19-year old for the first short-handed goal of the season.
By the five-minute mark of the period, the game looked like a write-off. By this point, the Marlies had scored their fourth goal of the night. In a play that could have been questioned for goalie interference, Richard Clune pitchforked both the puck and Wolf passed the line. The shove gave the Marlies their fourth goal on nine shots.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 21, 2021
With the offensive riot still in motion, the Marlies cashed in off an Andrew Nielsen turnover. Teemu Kivihalme picked up the failed pass and took a Sunday skate with the puck, taking multiple loops around the Stockton Heat. That wrister would put an end to Wolf’s night, entering former Marlies netminder Garret Sparks.
The Marlies didn’t care if it was Wolf or Sparks in the net to continue their march. Adam Brooks took the initial shot from outside the circles, with Justin Brazeau sitting out front tipping the shot to get his first AHL goal.
By the time the clock had seen 40 minutes, the Marlies were one short of a touchdown. To their credit, Stockton looked confident with Sparks in the net. While Stockton dominated the shot clock for most of the game, by the time Sparks entered the game, the Marlies had already begun to take over.
The Marlies’ seventh and final goal came just over two minutes in the third. Joseph Duszak took the initial shot from the point, but with Hudson Elynuik positioned out front, he tipped in the hammer shot to make it 7-0.
The shutout bubble was burst with 7:22 left in the third. Martin Pospisil created the play. Looking square at D’Agostini, he slid a pass to Luke Philp. The Canmore Alberta native directed the puck past D’Agostini
“Within the unique season we’re in and the schedule, how often do you start out your first four games against one opponent.” Marlies Head Coach Greg Moore said. “We were excited to face a new opponent. We wanted to test ourselves against another roster to see where we were at, where we stand with our development.”
The next game between the two will come on Tuesday at 8:00 ET. The game will be live on AHL TV, with live updates on Twitter @SinBinMarlies.