The length of time between the Toronto Marlies’ last game of the 2019-20 season and Monday night, where a new AHL campaign began.
After almost 12 months away from the ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Marlies returned to action, taking on the Manitoba Moose to start the season. Rusty at first, then as the game went on, the Marlies showcased their skill, toughness, and energy, en route to a 3-2 win.
“Our staff really liked that we built and got better as the game went on,” Moore said to reporters via Zoom after the game. “Obviously for both teams and for everyone involved, it’s been a long time since we played a game, knocked off some of the rust in the first period but the group stayed really positive, stayed with the game plan, and built on it from period to period and got stronger as we went on.”
Tyler Gaudet’s two goals propelled the Marlies to their inaugural victory of the season. He scored in the second period to tie the game and then the eventual game-winner in the third. After last season with the Marlies, where he recorded four goals through 58 games, Gaudet desires a better season with an improved offensive game. Not a bad start with two goals in the season opener.
Gaudet seeing double 🚨🚨
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 16, 2021
“My goal for me was to improve my offense,” Gaudet said “I was not happy with my offensive numbers last year. I am happy about the outcome of tonight but that’s just one game. I want to keep moving forward and progressing as an individual and as a team we need to keep playing our game and creating offense for ourselves.”
The scoring began with Marlies forward Joey Anderson at 5:05 in the opening period, converting on a scoring chance set up by Nick Robertson, his first career AHL assist. Marlies defenseman Timothy Liljegren set up Gaudet for the tying goal at 2:51 in the second period, with the Toronto forward firing a blazing wrist shot into the back of the net. Gaudet followed it up at 11:44 in the third period, with assists from Joseph Duszak and Rourke Chartier, sealing the game for the Marlies.
“I was really impressed with Tyler tonight,” Moore said. “He’s put in a lot of preparation in the offseason. He’s come in this year with a lot of expectations for himself to contribute more offensively as he was disappointed with last year. It’s just really nice to see a person who comes to work every day, does things the right way. He’s put a process in for himself, has some goals for this season, and to be rewarded tonight was nice to see.”
The Moose responded with goals from former Saginaw Spirit forward Cole Perfetti and Declan Chisholm. Perfetti buried the rebound, thanks to the shot from Bobby Lynch. Chisholm’s goal at 6:24 in the first period from the near side faceoff circle, with assists from Johnathan Kovacevic and Joona Luoto.
Andrew D’Agostini got the nod in goal for the Marlies, giving up only two goals on 27 shots. Moose goalie Mikhail Berdin made 32 saves on 35 shots.
For D’Agostini, his journey to the AHL took him through the ECHL and SPHL. Injuries and adversity plagued his career. But D’Agostini never lost faith. The COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine enabled D’Agostini to focus on his health. Once the Marlies gave him a chance, he seized it, earning his first AHL win with 25 saves.
“My body feels tired,” D’Agostini said after the game. “I’m proud of these guys for a very good effort.”
Says Moore: “The guys are really excited for him. His compete level is really high. Any team that see a goalie battling that hard in the net, they want to play hard for him. He did a great job, stayed within his game, made some key saves for us. The team is really happy for him and it was fun to watch him get his first win.”
- Before the game, the Toronto Marlies released their opening night 2020-21 roster. This included 15 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. Players such as Nick Robertson, Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, also competed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Sandin left the game in the third period. Marlies head coach Greg Moore did not disclose the details as to why he exited the game.
- Over the last 11 months, Moore kept busy during the lockdown and quarantine, with “phone calls, text messages, Zoom chats, and Facetime” with various members of the Leafs organization. “There was still a lot to build there for myself in those working relationships, especially with the players. This time has allowed for that.”
- After morning skate, I asked Moore about the communication with Leafs management (e.g. Sheldon Keefe, Kyle Dubas) and whether the pandemic will change the evaluation process. Moore says that dialogue is “constant” and that the evaluation will remain the same through streaming games, rather than watching them live in arenas.
- Next Game: Tuesday, February 16th vs. Manitoba Moose (8pm EST/7pm CST)