With five rookies on defense and an equal parts youthful and talented offensive lineup, who would have thought we would be talking about the goalie after the Bulldogs home opener?
Alas, you know how the expression goes, like father like son, and the Bulldogs parent club have relied on strong goaltending for years; why should their AHL affiliate be any different?
With Cedric Desjardins still nursing a non-serious injury, Robert Mayer would get the nod and he would be tested early and often.
In the first period the Toronto Marlies peppered the Bulldogs crease with 16 shots. Mayer stood up to the challenge stopping all of them; most notably he stoned Joe Colborne and Carter Ashton who each had point blank chances on the Power Play.
With under a minute left in the first Jarred Tinordi lugged the puck out of the defensive zone before sending it to former Marlie, Darryl Boyce. Boyce fed Louis Leblanc in front of the net, Leblanc made no mistake with a wide-open cage in front of him to notch his first of the season.
Tinordi’s assist marked the first point of his pro career. Although he is not expected to put up big numbers (the bruising defenseman had 16 points through 48 games last year with the London Knights) it only took him two games to find the scoresheet … what were the Vegas odds he would have a point before any penalty minutes?
In the second Mayer turned aside another 12 shots, and once again the Bulldogs would find the net late in the period. With just over two minutes left in the second Patrick Holland decided to show off how he scored 109 points in the WHL last year. Holland controlled the puck before cycling it off to Aaron Palushaj, and then he went to the net, after Dumont had a whack at Palushaj’s rebound the puck squirted out to Holland who potted his first pro goal. Just like that it was 2-0 for the Bulldogs despite being outshot 28-18 through 2 periods.
4:33 into the third, Aaron Palushaj would extend the lead to 3-0 on the Power Play. Patrick Holland would draw the only assist on the play, giving Palushaj and Holland each a goal and an assist on the game. The new line mates seemed to click and will surely be an interesting duo to watch for the rest of the season, or at least until the lockout ends, as Palushaj will likely get a chance to crack the Habs roster.
Despite Mayer’s great play the Marlies would eventually solve him. It would come at the midway point of the third, on the Marlies 33rd shot. Jake Gardiner’s wrist shot would take a weird deflection off Zack Stortini and find its way to the back of the net. A heartbreaking way to lose a shutout bid, but any goalie will tell you it’s the W that counts.
Louis Leblanc would secure a 4-1 win with an empty netter for his second of the game. The Bulldogs were outshot 40-30, but the entire difference was in the opening frame, both teams getting 24 shots in the final 40 minutes of play.
Three Stars: 1) Robert Mayer 2) Louis Leblanc 3) Patrick Holland