Recap: Toronto Marlies @ Amerks, 03.30.12
“Better bring your own redemption when you come to the barricades of heaven, where I’m from.” (Jackson Browne, Barricades of Heaven)
I don’t know how to say this in a professional, non-fanish manner, so I’m just gonna lay it out there (but imagine that I’m screaming it in a fit of anger, because it makes it so much better): You cannot win games if you consistently do not cover your man. You’re paid to play hockey, to score goals, and keep the other team from doing those things. Cover your man and things like Friday night’s game against the Marlies won’t happen. (Ed. note: Sounds like certain Buffalo News or Denver Post writers, so I’ll allow it!)
I jokingly tweeted, prior to Friday night’s contest against the Toronto Marlies that I have yet to see the Amerks beat the Marlies when I am on US soil. While Rochester has, indeed, beat TO twice this season, once at home and once on the road, one was my roadie to Toronto and once was in Rochester while I was in Mexico. I was hoping that this streak would end during this match, as it would likely be a preview of what the playoffs might bring. I thought, really and truly, I was going to get my wish. That I was going to see these Amerks dig in, grind it out, and pull a win from somewhere deep in their “we want to win this game and get into the playoffs and win those, too” bellies and I really thought I was going to get that when the Amerks opened up scoring at 52 seconds, on a goal by Szczechura, from Captain Stuart and Derek Whitmore. A bit less than nine minutes later, Toronto set the theme for the night when Acton tied the game on a goal that he flipped up over David Leggio, and that it appeared that Leggio never saw coming. The first period would come to a close with the teams tied, and Rochester leading in SOG.
Rochester again took the lead in the second period, as Evan Rankin scored his eleventh of the season, much to the dismay of Toronto goaltender Ben Scrivens. Luke Adam and Brayden McNabb had the helpers, but the lead wouldn’t last long, as Toronto tied the game on a power play goal three minutes later as Igor Gongalsky sat for high sticking. Whitmore decided that he liked that idea, though, and put the Amerks back in the lead at 13:24 of the second, on a sick unassisted goal. Now, I’m not a hockey player. I don’t make it habit to engage in fisticuffs in my daily life, as I’d likely get fired and/or arrested. But I do know that, when you’re going to start a fight, Jesse Blacker, you should likely do it against someone your own size. Ok, says Blacker … he and Gongalsky are about equal – Blacker has two inches on Gonger, but Gonger has 35lbs on Blacker. So, Blacker took exception to something Gonger said, and gloves were dropped. About 30 seconds into the bout, the look on Blacker’s face was pure “Oh my God, what have I done?” It was awesome and, although Blacker put his efforts in, Gongalsky made short work of him. The period drew to a close with Rochester up 3-2, and my feelings that tonight would be my night growing by the minute.
Then … well, then the third period happened, and apparently the Marlies decided that they really needed to hit the gas and get it done. Greg Scott tied the game at 3:13, and Kadri sank his second of the night to give the Marlies a 4-3 lead at 15:59. It is SO frustrating to watch these Amerks consistently fall apart in the third period, particularly when the season is winding down and there isn’t really a lot of wiggle room. The Amerks pulled goaltender Leggio for the extra attacker and I thought I would die when they TIED THE GAME. Paul Szczechura tied the game at 4 all, with assists to Whitmore and new-comer Brian Flynn, and the game would go into overtime.
I know I have said in the past that I’m not a fan of the extra frame, and I’m REALLY not a fan of the skills competition, so really, don’t be surprised that I was an anxious nervous wreck during OT. Worse than usual. Here’s why: it’s four-on-four hockey. Our four guys cover their four guys. Pretty simple math. The Amerks left one player unmanned at all times. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU WIN IN OVERTIME. It’s just not. There was an ugly boarding non-penalty on Morrisonn by Nazem Kadri, in which we got to see David Leggio’s sassy pants come out. Kadri was a hurtin’ puppy after his boarding attempt, and Leggio had what I’m sure were more than a few choice words for Mr Kadri after the play, as the linesman was pushing him away from the pile of hockey player behind his net. The Marlies open man scored the game winner with 5.6 seconds left in the overtime frame, with credit going to my least favorite AHL player ever, Mike Zigomanis. Leggio was not a happy camper, and I’m sure he’ll have a brand new stick tonight if he plays, as he was just wailing on the posts with his stick after the goal.
As I’m staring down the barrel of the final matchup of the season between these two teams, in a time when games mean so very much, there are a lot of things that can happen in Saturday night’s game. What I’m hoping will happen is that this game has lit a fire under the behinds of this Amerks club, they will come out guns blazing, maybe looking for some blood, and they will show this Marlies team they mean business. I also made the comment to one of my cohorts that, should ever there be a time when we could expect to see a goalie throw down, Saturday night might be the night. Expect to see Mark Owuya in net for the Marlies tonight, as Scrivens got the call to likely see some time in TO tonight against the Sabres and, as much as I might like to see Drew MacIntyre in net for Rochester, Leggio will likely get the start. As always, I’ll be live-tweeting the game – it’s the third-to-last Amerks home game, and your time is running out to by me a beer and talk some puck, lovelies, so I’ll see you at the game!!