TORONTO – Hockey is very much a numbers game. You count the shots, goals, saves, you name it. The Rochester Americans counted in sequence in a 4-3 win, winning game one in the best-of-five series.
The first shot, first goal, that’s the story of how the Toronto Marlies got the series started just over three minutes in. Joseph Blandisi had the great heads-up pass to find a streaking Nick Abruzzese. Rochester stood still as the Slate Hill, NY born forward waltzed towards the front of the net, and pulled the puck to his right, opening Malcolm Subban to open the scoring.
The second short-handed goal of the post-season for the Americans proved to be the one that broke the ice for them. Mason Jobst was running toward the goal with the bun. Notably, many players in the AHL would have taken the shot, but not Jobst. The pass came across to Kohen Olischefski for his first goal of the series. There had to be an element of surprise for goaltender Erik Källgren. Given that many players would have taken the shot, the Marlies were distracted by the power play.
Three bodies were in the lane when Ethan Prow took a late shot from the line. Unable to see Brett Murray, Källgren had the puck go by him while he looked for where the shot was coming from.
Murray makes it 2-1
ROC 2 – TOR 1 | 1st – 1:44 | #ROCvsTOR pic.twitter.com/6KMmr9vibQ
— Zack Power (@FPHMarlies) May 11, 2023
The late-period goal came at a time when the shots were 8-2 for Rochester. While they did dominate the shot clock, there’s something to be said for the amount of puck possession for Toronto. They had two power plays, which quite frankly stunk in the first period because of Rochester’s defense. The Amerks held the line on the Marlies, not letting the puck come inside. It was almost as if they had learned from their mistake.
An interesting note going into the second, a nearly six-minute delay held the game back late in the period. Brendan Warren wasn’t penned on the Rochester roster for the game, forcing him to hit the showers early. This put the Americans down to 10 forwards and seven defensemen.
The fourth goal of the game was credited to Isak Rosén with the insurance goal lead. The pass came across on their second power play, with Linus Weissbach setting up Rosen beautifully for a one-timer.
Rosen makes it 3-1
ROC 3 – TOR 1 | 2nd – 1:02 | #ROCvsTOR pic.twitter.com/JzBSWQwq1N
— Zack Power (@FPHMarlies) May 12, 2023
Five isn’t a lucky number, come back next time. Everyone knows I don’t do :05’s (the time of all the games in Rochester by the way).
It was like a sixth sense. A sign that the missing piece wasn’t all that big of a deal for Rochester. They knew where the puck was, and was going to be, stopped the Marlies in their tracks and held the line. Although Toronto came out of the gate swinging, give credit to Rochester for holding them without a goal in the second frame.
The Amerks had seven power-play goals in the last series, and they scored their ninth of the post-season thanks to Jiri Kulich. The play played out similar to their first power-play goal, with a simple one-timer on the pass across. It wasn’t an unpredictable play because I think most of the Coca-Cola Coliseum noticed it, but it was careless coverage.
The eighth shot of the third period got the Marlies one step closer to a comeback. Blandisi‘s shot from the slot prevented Subban from getting full contact on the puck.
Blandisi has us at 4-2
ROC 4 – TOR 2 | 3rd – 12:04 | #ROCvsTOR pic.twitter.com/wxkMwz7FXr
— Zack Power (@FPHMarlies) May 12, 2023
Blandisi almost had his ninth point of the playoffs, but you could have very well with the distraction in front of the net. Heavily in a net battle, Blandisi closed the vision for Subban. Kyle Clifford stood at the side of the goal, so when Shaw took the shot, Clifford got the rebound for the 4-3 marker.
Of all these numbers, only one mattered. Seven. The number of defensemen for the Rochester Americans. Each one of them had a critical role in Thursday’s game, which boiled down to keeping the Marlies at bay. While I think Toronto managed to crack the code in the third period, by then, it was already too late.
Game two comes on Saturday in Toronto.
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