WINNIPEG, MB – It’s not your average season opener for the Toronto Marlies and Manitoba Moose. Both squads haven’t played an AHL game in over 11 months. There are no fans, the atmosphere has undoubtedly changed, and there’s surely a bit of rust on both squads. But the excitement is there;
“Excited is an understatement. Everyone has been itching to play for quite a while.” Told Kenny Agostino during the morning skate, “Returning guys and guys that played in the A [HL] last year are going on 11 months.”
“Some of our guys have been in training camp for over 30 days.” Said Manitoba Head Coach Pascal Vincent, “So they’re very excited.”
Just moments before the game, the Maple Leafs announced that they had shipped Egor Korshkov and David Warsofsky to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk. This axed Warsofsky from the Marlies lineup just minutes before puck drop.
Andrew D’Agostini started between the pipes for the Marlies, playing his first AHL game. Meanwhile, the Moose elected to start Mikhail Berdin, who had a 2.51 GAA and a .912 save percentage with SKA St. Petersburg through his 12 games in the KHL this season.
Game Three of the Canadian AHL Season is On!
In the early portions of the first, Tyler Gaudet spent much of his shift guarding the front of the net. With a shot redirected behind the net, Gaudet tried a wrap-around on Berdin. The unsuccessful move created a rebound in front of the net for Joey Anderson to bury the Marlies’ first goal of the 2020-21 season.
Joey Anderson opens the scoring this season for the @TorontoMarlies 5:05. Nick Robertson with his first AHL point on the play along with Tyler Gaudet. Fastest road opening goal in team history. 2nd fastest overall
— Todd Crocker (@ToddCrocker) February 16, 2021
Minutes later, during a TV timeout, the Moose were brewing a strategy. With the faceoff outside D’Agostini, Declan Chisholm took a slot shot and banked his AHL career’s first goal and the first for the Moose to tie the game at one. It was just the second shot on D’Agostini, just over six minutes in the game.
By now, you could tell both are inexperienced, and it would be a high-scoring chance affair.
With under five minutes left in the first, Rasmus Sandin turned over the puck in the defensive zone, putting the gears in motion for a Moose assault. D’Agostini created a weak rebound off the initial shot by Bobby Lynch, and Cole Perfetti followed up and banked in his first pro goal, sparking a 2-1 lead. Perfetti was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2020 draft, going 10th overall.
At the end of the first, it was already 2-1 for the Manitoba Moose. It was clear – both teams had a lot to learn from the first period. Turnovers weren’t only common but a tradition for both in the opening frame. But more than that, it was a feeling-out process. Comprehending how each played was the name of the game initially, which means that both teams laid their cards for the second.
To start the second, you could tell the Marlies were buzzing. They spent the last few seconds of the intermission scouting a plan. Timothy Liljegren found Gaudet streaking in the offensive zone, who ripped it past Berdin to tie the game in the 22nd minute. Gaudet’s second point of the night put the game at two apiece.
— Zack Power (@SinBinMarlies) February 16, 2021
The third period would be a parade to the penalty box for the Marlies to start. Penalties from Richard Clune and Hudson Elynuik slowed an offensive push from the Marlies in the first half of the final period. Though Toronto showed the promise of a strong penalty kill, the redemption that followed is what surprised me.
Toronto had an offensive push aided by their second power play of the night. After a shot by Joseph Duszak, Gaudet found the puck on his stick in the slot. Gaudet cashed in the gift. Rourke Chartier also drew an assist, marking his first point in the AHL in over 18 months.
“There was times we felt we were protecting the puck good and playing.” Said Gaudet, “My goal for me is to improve my offence; I wasn’t happy with my offensive numbers last year. That’s been the main goal of mine.”
Toronto’s late push moved them past the Moose. In their just fourth season opener on the road, the final frame showed the Marlies containing the Moose, up until the last 90 seconds, where D’Agostini took over.
— Zack Power (@SinBinMarlies) February 16, 2021
Post Game Points
After a rocky start in the opening frame, D’Agostini noted that he felt more and more comfortable as the game went on, especially after the opening 10 minutes.
“My body certainly feels tired.” Said D’Agostini, “Overall I felt good. I’ve been waiting a really, really long time for this.”
Sandin left the game during the second intermission and never returned. Head Coach Greg Moore told the media he was uninformed as to what happened.
Meanwhile, Moore noted that his team is starting to build along with his coaching style.
“It’s been a bit more time for the players to get used to how I communicate and how I talk during the game. The staff has had more time to get on the same page. So it just feels a lot more as a whole right now.”
Both teams will play again tonight in Winnipeg, Manitoba, part of their four-game set. The game will be live on AHL TV, with updates on Twitter @SinBinMarlies.