TORONTO - Rochester goalie Tyler Plante played like his first name was Jacques as the Americans outlasted the hometown Toronto Marlies 1-0 Saturday afternoon in American Hockey League action.
Despite throwing plenty of traffic in front of the netminder and peppering Plante with 40 shots, the Marlies (24-30-10) couldn't beat him on the day. Toronto coach Dallas Eakins even took the uncharacteristic measure of talking to his team right after the loss to assure them their play warranted a better result.
"I was worried about their mindset going into tomorrow," said Eakins, whose club hosts Hartford on Sunday. "When you lose a game there are a lot of negative feelings and negative thoughts and I didn't want that creeping in their heads.
"If we play like that each and every game down the stretch, we will challenge somebody for a playoff spot and they needed to know that. That's about as good as we can play."
Both Plante and Toronto netminder Joey MacDonald played excellent in their respective creases, but it was the Americans goalie who ultimately had the upper hand.
Rochester (36-26-2) got on the board first thanks to some nifty work on the power play in the opening frame. Mike Duco got the play started by the Marlies end line, sending a quick pass to Jamie Johnson, who put a cross-crease feed over to left winger Mike York. The veteran made no mistake filling the yawning cage.
Rochester brought its physical game to Toronto, throwing some big hits and protecting Plante whenever necessary. At one point late in the first, six-foot-six left winger Steve MacIntyre put two Marlies in a simultaneous head lock.
Plante himself got into the action, taking a minor penalty late in the opening frame for bodychecking Toronto's Alex Berry in front of the net.
"I didn't want to get caught up in that stuff," Eakins noted, "but I thought we handled it well. Our bench was calm."
The game was chippy throughout, with Marlies right-winger Andre Deveaux catching Rochester captain Rory Fitzpatrick in a knee-on-knee collision and MacIntyre downing Toronto defenceman Joey Ryan with a thunderous hit into the end boards. Neither player returned to the game. Several others were hit from behind as the game progressed, though no fights actually broke out.
"Everyone was trying to stay out of the box, but it was still a tight game," said Marlies left-winger Jay Rosehill. "Emotions were running high but no one wanted to go that extra mile, which was fine with us because we felt were playing pretty good."
MacDonald was on his game early in the second, stopping two Americans point-blank at the side of the net. He also made a key stop on young Americans right winger Michal Repik on a power play laser from the point to keep the game within one.
Plante made a big save midway through the second, stopping Toronto right winger Kyle Rogers on a breakaway. The netminder also earned his pay during a rare 4-on-3 Toronto power play late in the middle frame, stoning Alex Foster on the doorstep and turning away several dangerous point shots.
"We just weren't able to solve him tonight with anything we tried," Rosehill said.
Rosehill actually had a great chance to tie the game up early in the third period when he one-timed a pass in the slot, but once again Plante was there to get a shoulder in front of it. MacDonald was equal to the task in the Marlies net, stretching out to deny Jeff Taffe on a great offensive opportunity.
Toronto pulled MacDonald for the final minute of play, but struggled to get even close to Plante for most of that dying span. The goalie did make one more grab on a point shot to preserve the win and the shutout.
Notes: The Marlies celebrated South Asian Culture Night at the game. ... Rochester is undefeated against Toronto this season. ... The teams combined for 11 minor penalties in the second period. ... The two teams will meet three more times this season.