TORONTO– The Toronto Marlies were the only Toronto professional hockey team playing on Wednesday.
The key narrative going into the game was the team looking to win three consecutive games against a division rival. However, the backdrop of Wednesday night’s matchup against the Laval Rocket was dominated by the news of Mike Babcock’s firing.
Replacing Babcock as the 31st head coach in Toronto Maple Leafs franchise history would be Sheldon Keefe. The coach that brought a Calder Cup to the Toronto Marlies in 2018, along with three conference championship appearances.
With Keefe on his way to the Leafs, it left Marlies assistants Rob Davison, Jack Han, and A.J. MacLean to assume interim coaching duties. The afternoon’s distractions clearly did not bother the Marlies, who defeated the Laval Rocket 2-1 in overtime.
Toronto Marlies OT Victory Gets Post-Sheldon Keefe Era Off to Great Start
This was the Marlies first victory over the Rocket this season; they dropped their first meeting in a tight 6-5 shootout loss. Wednesday’s game would mark the return of Marlies defenseman Timothy Liljegren, who suffered a knee injury last week against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The highly-touted Marlies defenseman registered one shot on goal in his return but was critical in helping his team clear the puck of their own zone.
Matthew Peca got the scoring going for Laval, beating Marlies goalie Michael Hutchinson point-blank in the first period. The Marlies would get their chance to tie the game in the second period, when Scott Pooley fired a slap shot, beating Rocket goalie Charlie Lindgren‘s glove side. Pooley’s goal would be his first this 2019-2020 season as a member of the Marlies.
A scoreless third period would carry over into overtime, until Kenny Agostino registered his ninth goal of the season, deking his way through the Laval defense to score past Lindgren. Michael Hutchinson, getting his second win as a member of the Marlies, stopped 28 saves on 27 shots on net.
The Toronto Marlies improve to 11-2-2-1 on the season. Still second in the AHL’s Eastern Conference and atop the North Division, it is clear that the post-Sheldon Keefe era is off to a great start for the Marlies.