The Toronto Marlies wrapped up a three-in-three road trip Sunday by defeating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-1, improving the team’s record to 2-1 while away from Ricoh Coliseum.
Toronto (5-2-0) began the trip Friday with an 8-2 win over the Rochester Americans (3-4-0), outshooting its opponent 34-23. It was a balanced attack offensively from the Marlies, who had eight different players light the lamp.
That game was followed by a 5-1 loss to the rested Binghamton Senators (3-3-0) Saturday. Goaltender Garret Sparks allowed all five goals on 36 shots and fell to 1-2-0 on the year.
“It’s always tough when you go into those three-in-threes and the games come at you so fast,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe at an optional practice Tuesday. “It’s really, you call it three in three, but by the time that first game starts it’s really three in 48 hours or so, it’s tough.
“I thought our first game at the start of the trip was good and that set us up to have a chance at a good weekend. We didn’t respond well in game two against a rested team that was flat out better than us that day and then we salvaged the trip with a good effort in the first period of game three.”
All four goals of Sunday’s game against the Phantoms came in the first 20 minutes and the Marlies maintained that lead through the final two frames.
Leading the way was first-year pro Nikita Soshnikov with two goals, giving him a total of three goals and an assist on the young season. The Nizhny Tagil, Russia native scored his first AHL goal Friday in Rochester.
“He’s got better and better every game,” said Keefe about the 22-year-old forward. “He’s getting much more comfortable around here, so I thought he was excellent. I thought that line with (Frederik) Gauthier and (Richard) Clune was really good for us, probably our most consistent all the way through they played together all three games.
“I think that line generated six goals for us when they were on the ice, so a lot of good things from them, and Sosh (Soshnikov) with his speed and how he gets on the puck I think is the guy that really pushes that line and then Clune and Gauthier do their work as well to make it a real solid trio, so they’ve really come together here in the short term.”
Gauthier also picked up his first points as a pro over the three-game trip, assisting on a goal in Rochester and then scoring in the win over the Phantoms (2-4-0).
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The line of Gauthier, Clune and Soshnikov did all of the scoring in the final game in Lehigh Valley, combining for five points.
“I think he’s a guy that sees the game defensively first and foremost,” said the coach about Gauthier. “He takes care of things and is used to being above the puck and being responsible, taking care of the puck and the ice.
“We’re trying to get him to be a guy that can be responsible and be who he is as far as his defensive play, but also be on the puck more, bring it to the net more and get available.”
Antoine Bibeau was in net for both Toronto wins, improving to 4-0 on the year.
The Marlies continue their season Wednesday when they host the Syracuse Crunch at Ricoh Coluseum.