It is a short week in terms of play for Toronto with only 2 games on the docket, but the club have been filling their time with hard working practices and I’m here to bring you up to speed on some Marlies munchies heading into the weekend play.
With a goal and an assist in Toronto’s 6-0 win over the Bulldogs on Tuesday, Ryan Hamilton moved to 15 goals on the season. That mark is above any other teammate at the time of this posting and is good enough to crack the top 10 among the league’s most prolific goals scorers in the league. The Marlies captain is now just 10 goals shy of his team leading 25 from one year ago, which also acted as a career high, but was accumulated over 74 games. Now at the 30 game plateau, he will almost certainly record his 3rd (20) goal season of his AHL career and could have the best campaign of his life. Not bad, considering last year he helped lead his team to the Calder Cup Finals and cracked an NHL roster for the first time; with the Maple Leafs. In his 7th AHL season it is fantastic to learn that the best is yet to come for the veteran left winger and the Marlies can only hope he’s perhaps saved his best for the post season.
After starting the year 2013 with a victory in shutout fashion over rival Hamilton, the Marlies are eager to keep their first place position in the Western Conference and are gunning for top spot in the league. Attempting to stand in their way are the Rockford IceHogs. The Chicago Blackhawks affiliate are also determined to climb the ladder in the Western Conference and may be within striking distance of the division lead and therefor 3rd overall position in the West, by the time they meet the Marlies on Saturday. After winning 3 straight home games, the IceHogs moved closer to overtaking Grand Rapids for top spot in the Midwest Division, however they would go on to lose a head to head with the Griffins and kick-start their 3 game road trip with a loss. On Friday the Hogs travel to Hamilton, before wrapping up the trip on Saturday at Ricoh. Rockford boasts one of the league’s best power plays and have 12 players that own at least 1 power play goal this season. Particularly dangerous while on the man advantage is Adam Clendening, as half of the rear-gaurd’s 22 points have been tallied on the power play. Aside from that stat in holster, Rockford also has the “hometown motivator” in their arsenal. A total of 6 players and their coach (Ted Dent) have connections to the the GTA: Flick (Mississauga-OHL), Hayes (Toronto draft 2nd round 2008), Lebda (2010-2011 Maple Leafs), Leblanc (Hamilton, Ont), Paradis (Marlies 2009-2010), Pirri (Toronto, Ont) and will trying to play up to the occasion.
Toronto could use some help from Norfolk this weekend. No, not the Admirals team affiliated with the Lightning that won the Calder Cup, but the this year’s version who are now affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks after migrating over from Syracuse. Those Admirals host their former club, the new Syracuse Crunch this weekend for a two game set. The Marlies are two points shy of tying them at 45 points for 1st overall in the AHL and would have a game at hand when the weekend play is finished. Toronto not only has some of the best team stats in the league, but some of the best player stats, too. The duo of Keith Aucoin and Mike Kostka have cracked the top 10 among the league’s top scorers and those two also find themselves in the top 5 in league assist leaders, while also near the top of the league in power play assist generated. Given the strength of both power plays, it could be quite the special team’s battle on Saturday.
Thanks for making room for the latest Pre Game Meal! Enjoy the Saturday afternoon game and I’ll be back next week with an updated menu.
Catch Saturday’s Marlies game vs Rockford on Sportnset 1 and AHL Live at 3pm.