It’s early, but Byron Froese is making an impression with his new club.
The 24-year-old centre scored a goal in regulation, then the only one of the shootout to lead the Toronto Marlies to a 3-2 win over the Manitoba Moose Saturday afternoon.
After nobody could score in the 3-on-3 overtime, followed by six straight saves made by goalies Garret Sparks and Eric Comrie in the shootout, Froese came in with speed and fired one between the legs of the Moose keeper.
I’ve been working on it in practice a bit, (to) come with speed,” said Froese after the game. “I saw what Willy (Nylander) did, he came a little slower so he had more time, but I wanted to come with speed and just try to find that opening.”
Froese scored a goal in the season-opening 5-3 win Friday night, and he notched his second when he tied the game at one 5:24 into the second period on the power play Saturday.
He took a feed from Brendan Leipsic and slid it five-hole on Comrie, who finished with 40 saves in the loss.
“It was just a battle in front, trying to get my position and trying to find an open spot when there was one and it kind of worked out,” said Froese. “I fanned on the shot a bit but the changeup kind of worked.”
Rookie head coach Sheldon Keefe has been pleased with what he’s seen from Froese, a Chicago Blackhawk fourth round pick in 2014 who signed a two-year deal with the Maple Leafs in the off-season.
“People in the organization thought very highly of him, that’s why he earned himself an NHL contract this summer,” said Keefe. “I watched video on him, liked him … (The) first few games he’s been very good, very much a leader for us.”
Making 27 shots in the win was Garret Sparks, who also stopped all four Manitoba attempts in the shootout. The 22-year-old played 36 games in the East Coast Hockey League last season, posting a .936 save percentage with a 2.34 goals against average.
A seventh round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Sparks will battle with Antoine Bibeau for ice time this season.
“He’s come in and he’s been very confident in his ability, I think he’s a confident guy in general,” said Keefe. “He battled hard in the net today, it was good to see that we got two good guys there.”
The Marlies carried the play in the first, firing 20 shots at the Manitoba net while only giving up six.
It was the Moose however, who went into the second period with the lead when J.C. Lipon went high blocker on Sparks, redirecting a John Albert pass in the slot.
After Froese tied the game, Marlies captain Andrew Campbell tipped in Matt Frattin’s shot to give Toronto the lead. A good forecheck by Fredrik Gauthier led to the Moose turning over the puck to Frattin.
The Marlies went into the third period with the lead, and a 33-16 edge in shots, but the Manitoba carried play in the third as they pressed for the tying goal.
With the net empty, Ryan Olsen chipped a rebound over Sparks’s pad to tie the game with just 1:51 remaining.
The teams traded chances in overtime but could not get anything to go.