TORONTO, Ont. – Game number 84 on the AHL schedule featured a contest between the Cleveland Monsters and the Toronto Marlies. Both clubs came into the game fresh off a wins; the Marlies have won all four games thus far, and Cleveland is 3-2-0.

The Monsters played in Rochester on Friday, where they took a 4-3 shootout victory. Nathan Gerbe highlighted the game with this fantastic marker.

Additionally, Cleveland is the middle of a stretch of three games in three days. What is promising for Cleveland, is the amount of scratched forwards, which gives them the flexibility to rotate them into the roster.

On the other side, Toronto scored their fourth victory of the season on Wednesday against Hershey.

The first penalty came for the Monsters just 3:50 in when Doyle Somerby comes in with a nasty elbow on Kristians Rubins. Although it went scoreless, it showed how potent the powerplay is for the Marlies with good offensive pressure.

At the end of 20:00, the score sat a 0-0. Both teams looked solid in the first, but the Monsters have the advantage in shots 9-7. One thing that stood out like a sore thumb was the Monsters’ ability to capitalize on Marlies mistakes. Every time the Marlies had to tag up for offsides, execute a poor line change and even a cause turnover, the Monsters were there and ready for a zone entry.

Early in the second, the Marlies were first to break the ice, with Darren Archibald getting through everyone to get the games opening goal. After the goal, it gave the Marlies a shot of energy and they kept persisting. With the goal and support from Kaskisou, the Marlies had a buzz to start the second period.

Even on the penalty kill, Kaskisuo continued to stand firm in the pipes. With this confidence, the team was able to make a shot on the penalty kill, and keep the puck clear from the defensive zone. It also helped that the Marlies group was able to get some rest, with the aid of Vhehvilsinen’s broken mask that had to be repaired.

The game would continue to be a back-and-forth affair through the second period, where both teams traded chances and opportunities. Goaltending kept steady, even when defense lacked. The crowd roared as Kaskisuo made every save, some without a stick and a couple off the mask.

At the end of 40:00, the Monsters dominated the shot clock with 24-15 in their favor. At the buzzer, the Marlies celebrated a goal that had to be looked over in the intermission. The initial shot appeared to cross the line before the buzzer, but the second was far past the green light. The goal would not stand, and the period would end 1-0.

Even Cleveland would have a chance on the powerplay off an interference call, and just like the Marlies advantage moments prior, they came up unsuccessful.

The symptoms of a tired squad showed for Cleveland in the last half of the third. It began to look like the Marlies were out-skating the Monsters on all areas of the ice.

With just over two minutes left in the game, the Monsters pulled their goaltender to create a six-man operation. Neither team would capitalize on the opportunity, leaving the game at 2-0.

“Even though we’re 5-0, there’s lots of stuff we have to be better at…In the third period, we really showed how good we can be as a team,” Marlies defenseman Timothy Lijergen said.

Analysis and Post-Game

There was no doubt in my mind that Cleveland was tired after the game. Presumably, they left Rochester on a bus after the shootout win. The third period looked like a nightmare, as they were simply out of gas, only registering six shots in the final stanza.

Through forty, Kaskisuo saved the Marlies and kept them in the game. The Monsters did register 30 shots on goal, which was more than the Marlies, but most weren’t complete quality shots. All the same, when the Monsters got set up in the zone, it looked deadly.

“Special teams and goaltending have been the backbone of our wins on home ice,” Marlies head coach  Sheldon Keefe said after the game.

Special teams were huge for the Marlies. Entering Saturday’s game, they were atop the league in penalty kill and second in power-play goals. They shot down every special team advantage in the game, and the power play had good looks throughout. 

“I don’t know if we’ve been nearly deserving at five on five to win those games. Special teams and goaltending have been enough to fill those gaps,” Keefe said. 

Both teams will meet for a rematch on Sunday at 4:00 pm EST. The game can be seen on AHL TV.

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