TORONTO – The Toronto Marlies are getting some bodies back in the lineup and the results are starting to follow.
The Marlies gave up a late goal to the visiting Texas Stars, but were able to hang on for a 2-1 win in American Hockey League action on Friday night.
Captain Ben Ondrus got the Marlies’ first goal, while Josh Engel added a power-play goal.
Ondrus was playing just his second game after sitting out since late December with a knee injury. His linemate, Ryan Hamilton, also took part in his second game since missing nearly two months with an undisclosed ailment. The two wingers flanked centre Ben Simon to form one very tough, productive checking line for coach Dallas Eakins.
“They play simple and they play hard,” said Eakins. “Those are the two things they have to do consistently to be successful and they’re a great line to throw out against the other team’s top line.”
Ondrus said the Marlies’ newfound depth has helped him ease back into game shape.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “We’ve got three or four lines that can all play and it’s not putting too much pressure on anybody with absurd amounts of ice time. It’s good to have that many guys who can play in every situation and spread out the ice time, it keeps everybody fresh.”
Though not overly busy, Toronto goalie Joey MacDonald was sharp when he needed to be, making 21 stops for the win. Once they fell behind by two goals in the second, the Stars turned up the pressure on the Marlies. MacDonald’s best save came on a point-blank slapshot from the slot in which he quickly charged out past the top of the crease to cut down the angle.
The Stars didn’t get on the board until there was just over four minutes left in the game when Perttu Lindgren fired a slapshot over MacDonald’s glove after the Marlies had failed to clear the zone on a couple of chances.
Other than that, the Marlies played Texas – one of the league’s top clubs – very tight.
“We had a real strict gameplan and we stuck with it throughout the game,” Eakins said. “We knew they were going to get their chances eventually or maybe they would get them early, we weren’t sure when they were going to come, but we wanted to make sure we were patient, confident with what we wanted to do and our guys stuck with it all the way through.”
MacDonald conceded that it’s tough not to start thinking about a goose egg when it’s only a handful of minutes away, but ultimately he was just focused on the bottom line for his team.
“Two points is two points, it would have been nice to get the shutout, but a win is a win,” he said.
Toronto (22-26-10) has now won the first two contests of a four-game homestand. Texas (31-19-7), meanwhile, lost for the first time in two games and has two dates left on a five-game roadtrip.
The Marlies opened the scoring 8:15 into the game when Simon caused a turnover in the Texas zone and fed the puck to Ondrus, who then wired a hard wrist shot to the back of the net from the top of the circle.
Toronto completely carried the play in the first period, outshooting the Stars 18-5. However, the Marlies weren’t able to beat goalie Richard Bachman again until a second-period power play. Brett Festerling spotted Engel at the opposite end of the high slot and sent a crisp pass over that Engel corralled, then whipped past Bachman.
Kyle Calder also drew an assist on the play, extending his point streak to six games.
Notes: Andre Deveaux returned to Toronto’s lineup after serving a three-game suspension for throwing a roll of tape at a fan versus the Manitoba Moose. . . The Marlies re-assigned forward Stefano Giliati to the Reading Royals, their ECHL affiliate. They also released forward Ashton Rome from his tryout contract.