“It was definitely a change-up there,” said Mitchell of his decisive goal at 15:59 of the third, which snapped a 2-2 tie. “(Marlies defenceman) Derrick Walser dragged it towards my side and passed it across the ice through the seam. I tried to hit it and I kind of fanned on it, but it went straight towards the goalie along the ice and I think it went in off the blade of one of their player’s sticks.”
It’s the second win in a row for Toronto as the Marlies improved to 6-0-1 on the season, the best start in franchise history.
“It was a hard-fought game, Syracuse is a hardworking hockey club,” said Marlies coach Greg Gilbert. “They came at you every shift. (Goaltender Justin) Pogge made some big saves for us midway through the game or it might’ve been a different story.”
David Ling scored two goals, while Darryl Boyce and Kris Newbury, with an empty-netter, had singles for the Marlies in front of 3,274 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
Mitchell also had two assists for a three-point game, while Newbury had one helper for a two-point night.
“We’re clicking,” said Ling, who played on a line with Mitchell and left winger Colin Murphy and scored 2:23 into the third period and again at 17:53 of the final frame. “We’re getting the opportunity and we’re playing on the power play and we’re playing in conditions where you can get those points and move the puck around and it seems to be working.”
Zenon Konopka and Philippe Dupuis replied for the Crunch.
Syracuse, which has lost four of its past five games, fell to 3-7-0. Toronto and the Chicago Wolves, also 6-0-1, are the only AHL teams that still haven’t lost a game in regulation time this season.
“We found a way to get a couple late in the game to get the win,” Gilbert said.
Pogge stopped 32 of 34 shots for the victory. At the other end, Crunch goalie Adam Munro made 21 saves on 26 shots.
“(Pogge) was making himself big in the crease and waiting for the puck to come to him,” Gilbert said. “He was making better decisions with the puckaI thought he was outstanding tonight. He kept us in it.”
Toronto and Syracuse both went 1-for-6 on the power play.
The game was tied 0-0 after the first period and 1-1 through 40 minutes.
“The first two periods weren’t that great for the whole team,” Mitchell said. “It was tied and we knew going into the third that we had to really step it up.” Boyce opened the scoring for Toronto at the six-minute mark of the second period when he swatted in a rebound from the side of the net past Munro. The Crunch made it 1-1 on Konopka’s power-play goal at 7:46 of the middle frame, as the Syracuse centre positioned himself at the foot of the Marlies crease and redirected a pass past Pogge.
Ling regained the lead for Toronto early in the third period, standing at the side of the net and tapping in Mitchell’s pass at 2:23. A few minutes later, Dupuis pulled the Crunch even at 2-2 when the puck bounced to him during a goalmouth scramble and he fired a shot past Pogge at 7:01. Ling provided insurance at 17:53 when he snapped a wrist shot past Munro, while Newbury’s empty-net goal sealed the game at 18:48.
The Marlies, who played six of their first seven contests at home, kick off a seven-game road trip in Albany River against the Rats on Wednesday.