Brennan leads Toronto Marlies to season-opening victory

Four-point night includes hat trick

T.J. Brennan had three goals and four points in the Marlies' opener. Photo: NHLPA
T.J. Brennan had three goals and four points in the Marlies’ opener. Photo: NHLPA (brennan)

T.J Brennan scored three goals and added an assist as the Toronto Marlies opened their American Hockey League season with a 4-3 overtime win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Saturday afternoon at the Ricoh Coliseum.

Trevor Smith’s goal 2:59 into the extra session was the difference in a game filled with powerplay chances.   

Toronto (1-0-0-0) was granted a terrific opportunity to win in overtime after Nathan Paetsch was called for delay of game just six seconds into the extra session, but were unable the convert.

They would make Grand Rapids (1-1-0-0) pay when given another chance with the man advantage after Brennan Evans was called for closing the hand on the puck.

Smith was able to beat Jared Coreau (0-1-0) over the glove side after Brennan found him wide open. 

Head coach Steve Spott was pleased with his team’s efforts.

“We knew that Grand Rapids were going to come in with some speed and I think there was about 17 players returning from last year’s Calder Cup team,” said Spott.

We knew they had experience, speed, skill, and we were going to have to play a smart game here today, almost a road game here at home, we were going to have to be patient and make sure we were able to capitalize on our opportunities and sure enough we did that in overtime.”

The Marlies took it to the body early and often and it paid off moments later when Brennan was able to hold the puck in the Griffins’ end and move in and beat Coreau blocker side to open the scoring 5:25 of the first period.

Smith, who was named captain Friday, picked up the assist on the play. 

Brennan tied it 12:29 of the second with a bullet shot from the point with the man advantage after Griffins defenceman Adam Almquist was called for holding. 

Toronto took a 3-2 lead 16:17 of the second thanks to Brennan’s third goal of the game. The native of Wilingboro, NJ beat Coreau with a one-time shot from the point. 

“I think that’s a first for me there now being my fifth year of pro I just want to start my season simple,said Brennan after he was asked if he recalled the last time he scored a hat-trick.

Brennan gave credit to his defensive partner John-Michael Liles who played his first game with Marlies after clearing waivers Wednesday.

“Sometimes you try to do a little too much and when you’re playing with great players out there like Johnny up top and everything you just want to try to get the puck to the net and things kind of seemed to go our way.

Sam Carrick and David Broll picked up the assists on Brennan’s hat-trick. The assist was Broll’s second of the night. 

Drew MacIntyre (1-0-0) stopped 27 shots for the win. 

Coreau was forced to be sharp early on and was forced into making several difficult saves, including a pad save on Josh Leivo as the forward was able to use his speed to generate a partial break.

The Griffins tied it 14:10 after Tomas Jurco tapped in a nice feed from Gustav Nyquist that beat Drew MacIntyre on the right side.

Captain Jeff Hoggan picked up the secondary assist on Jurco’s first goal of the season.

Grand Rapids took the lead a 1:49 as Toronto was unable to clear the puck and were able to capitalize on the defensive breakdown.    

Riley Sheahan was able to pounce on a loose puck and beat MacIntyre short side for his second of the season. 

The Marlies were outshot 14-11 in the opening period.   

Penalties hurting Griffins

Grand Rapids was fortunate to be only trailing by a goal heading into the third as they were called for five consecutive minor penalties that included two 5-on-3 opportunities for Toronto. 

The Griffins carried the play early on in the third and were soon rewarded for their efforts.

Mitch Callahan’s second of the season knotted the game at three at 4:43 on pretty set up by Jurco, who came in on a partial 2-on-1 with Callahan and spun around with the puck on his backhand leaving Callahan with a wide open net for an easy tap in. 

Grand Rapids had a terrific opportunity to take the lead with just over six minutes remaining in the third after Andrew MacWilliam was assessed a five minute major and game misconduct for boarding, but missed the net on several one-time shot opportunities and when they did manage to get the puck on net MacIntyre was there to shut the door.

“I think our penalty kill earned us the two points tonight along with Drew MacIntyre and obviously our powerplay at the end got us the big goal, said Spott.

MacWilliam conceded that the referee made the proper call.

“I was just finishing a check and there’s no doubt it was probably a hit from behind, said MacWilliam.

“My momentum was going through and the refs thought it was a five minute major and I guess there’s nothing I can do to change that, but I’m just fortunate the boys pulled it out there in overtime and, it was a great goal by Smitty [Smith]. T.J played a hell of a game to get us to that point”

Notes: Marlies’ forwards Spencer Abbott and Jamie Devane had both been recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs and were not in the lineup … Last season, the Marlies and Griffins each finished atop their divisions (Toronto 96 points, Grand Rapids 92 points) … The Griffins opened their season Friday in defence of their Calder cup title in Rochester and defeated the Americans 8-1 … Nyquist (one goal, two assists) and Almquist (three assists) led the way with three points apiece … Dylan Yeo, Kenny Ryan, Kevin Marshall, Jesse Blacker, and Zchary Yuen were scratches for the Marlies … Gleasen Fournier, Louis Marc Aubry, Marek Tvrdon, and Richard Nedomlel were scratches for the Griffins … 6,525 was the announced attendance.