Coming Off Pair Of Losses, Toronto Marlies Set To Face Laval Rocket

Christian Bonin/

Following a series against the Stockton Heat, which saw Toronto fall short in two games on home ice, the Marlies now turn their attention to the task set before them in a brand new opponent. As they look to get back on track, they’ll go head-to-head against Laval starting Friday.

Entering this home-and-home series, the Toronto Marlies are sitting in third in the Canadian Division with a 6-6 record. The Rocket, on the other hand, are just atop them in second with a 6-3 record. For both the Marlies and Rocket, this matchup is anything but an ordinary series. This matchup represents a rivalry, perhaps one of the greatest in the history of sports.

Given the long and agonizing history of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens, this series continues that tradition while developing the future of this ultimate battle. This is a feeling that resonates among the Marlies roster and their bench boss, Greg Moore. “Yeah, I would say there’s definitely that type of energy, I mean it’s two organizations that have had great success over many, many, many years and that trickles down right to the American League level, so again, two organizations that are very competitive within the two clubs, and many times, you’re playing one of the better teams in the league or in your division, you know, that kind of rivalry atmosphere, environment, kind of creates itself, m so you could tell the guys were ready this morning, they’re excited to play tonight, it should be a good game.”

Christian Bonin/

Not only that, but Toronto has a new team member in forward Alex Galchenyuk, a former Montreal Canadien. Through his first four games with the hockey club, Galchenyuk has tallied four points, having scored one goal along with three assists. Along with the team’s newest centreman, the Maple Leafs announced on Thursday that they loaned four players to join the Marlies roster. That includes Alexander Barabanov, Timothy Liljegren, Nic Petan and Mikko Lehtonen. However, hours prior to puck drop, the defensemen was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

While some of them saw ice time with the Leafs, there were others that didn’t, only skating with the taxi squad. Coming in and perhaps at the right time, Greg Moore said on Friday about the team’s latest entries, “A lot of enthusiasm, some of these guys are really hungry to play games and get some reps, they’re gonna get a ton of ice, it’s gonna be good for them to feel the puck and continue to build on themselves and hopefully it’s a confidence builder to come here and show well and work hard and add to what’s already been a great group here so far.”

Among that group is Tyler Gaudet, who’s been a leader for the the Marlies and a force to be reckoned with. While the forward’s helped to lead Toronto’s offence, he’s aware of the hardships that can come against the Rocket. “Yeah, you know, they’re a fast, hard team, they work really hard and they play a really solid game, they’re very defensive and very offensive at the same time, so you know, we just gotta be on top of our game and we gotta really attack them back.”

Christian Bonin/

That includes paying attention to the small details, which the Marlies have worked on during skates throughout the week. “Yeah, for sure, that’s what we did this week, like I said earlier, we didn’t have a lot of time to practice, we kind of just went into the games really quickly, and now, we had some time to step back and practice and hopefully we can kind of tighten up those areas that we lack a lot,” the centreman said.

With not much time to perfect all systems, it was certainly felt up and down the team as they took on the Heat during the last week of February. “Yeah, I think we definitely have taken ownership in the 5-1 loss, we didn’t play a very good game, we didn’t make good decisions, we’re very aware of that as a group,” said Marlies captain Rich Clune. “I thought the next night we rebounded very well, although we did learn a tough lesson that a hockey game is 60 minutes and I thought we worked hard, and Stockton’s a great team, they were very fortunate on a couple of their goals, which ended up giving them the win, we didn’t feel bad about that game, although we did learn that, you know, you have to make good decisions constantly at every moment of every game to survive in pro hockey, but it was a very rigorous road trip that kind of took a toll towards the end, we probably lacked practice, I think we maybe lost a little bit of our structure, but it’s gonna braid two days here with practice and I think, you know, moving in towards the weekend vs. Laval, we’re gonna be sharp and ready to go.”

With heightened expectations after an off-week, head coach Greg Moore knows what a matchup like this brings, being pressure and intensity, which his team must fight off to lock down back-to-back victories this weekend. “Yeah, they’re definitely going to be a strong opponent. We have to be ready for them in a lot of areas,” the Marlies bench boss said. “The last two games against Stockton – would we have liked better from our group consistently? Yes. I think our team is going to be in a better place physically and energy wise coming into this game Friday. Last weekend we’re finishing 12 games in 18 days. Not an excuse to not play our way with our details and our systems and our commitment, but it also makes it more challenging. We’ve had a couple days of good rest, now a couple days of good practice. The team’s trending in the right direction. Hopefully we can come out in the first period against them and make it challenging, make it difficult. We know they’re a good opponent. It’s going to be a great test to see where we’re at in the season so far.”

Christian Bonin/

This was reiterated by Scott Pooley, who has confidence in his team to get back in the win column. “Yeah, I don’t think there needs to be any drastic change, a few details here and there sometimes cost us and that’s the game of hockey, so just continuing to work on those little details and we were happy with how we played the second night in that second loss. Obviously, it got away from us at the end, and that’s a lesson that we need to finish a full 60 off to win in this league and win in pro hockey, so like I said, I don’t think there needs to be any big changes, I think we just need to hone in on our details and put out a full 60 on the ice and we’re gonna like the outcome in the room I think and we can compete with anyone.”

Committed to doing just that, Rich Clune reiterated this sentiment while knowing what it takes to come out on top. “I don’t think we need to make too many drastic changes, I think we know what we need to do and that will probably stay in-house amongst our team and we’re going to do them.”

The Toronto Marlies drop the puck against the Rocket in the first of two games at 7:00pmET. Doing so at Coca-Cola Coliseum, the game will be available for viewing on Leafs Nation Network and AHLTV. For those who don’t have Rogers cable or hold a subscription to AHLTV, the game will be the American Hockey League’s free game of the week on Facebook Watch.

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