1. Leads lost, goals called back, hostilities bubbling with a division rival, the Marlies escaped with a 5-4 overtime win in Hamilton on Friday night, Simon Gysbers burying the winner on the first night of an eight-game road trip. "The one thing that we had last year with our team is it was extremely resilient; they weren't affected by much, they were all business all the time," said head coach Dallas Eakins. "And I felt a little bit of that coming back tonight."
Trading leads with the Bulldogs for the near-balance of 60 minutes, the Marlies believed they'd edged ahead for good with only five seconds left in regulation with Paul Ranger scoring an apparent go-ahead goal. Those winning emotions flipped in a hurry though as the marker was called back and Mark Fraser was sent to the box for hooking. The Marlies proceeded to kill off nearly two minutes of 4-on-3 in overtime, capitalizing on momentum from their efforts with Gysbers ending it on a one-time laser from Dylan Yeo. "Even with that late penalty, one of the guys said 'Killers, just go kill it off'," noted Eakins. "It was nice to feel that [resiliency] again."
2. Ben Scrivens was only average in three starts before Friday (.896 save percentage), replaced by Jussi Rynnas for a pair of starts last weekend. Scrivens got back between the pipes against the Bulldogs, battling a constant parade of Hamilton traffic toward a 35-save performance. "He was battling alright and I'll tell you what, he made some huge saves for us," said Eakins. "Hamilton's game with him, it's very obvious; it's contact, keep running into him and push the refs to his limit on the calls. He's getting lots of traffic there which is tough. It's tough enough to stop the puck, it's even harder when you've got their guys running into you all night. I don't know if that's on a message board or something that I get rattled when I get run or something, but I'll take it," said Scrivens. "I think I've drawn at least a half dozen penalties in the games I've played so far this year."
3. Early action was shaky for the 26-year-old, who allowed a Mike Blunden shot to trickle through the five-hole only 19 seconds after Carter Ashton opened the scoring for the Marlies. What was impressive was Scriven's resolve, especially in the middle frame when the Bulldogs outshot the Marlies 19-7. Hamilton did score twice in that second period, but it was through no fault of the Alberta native. "It was kind of a weird game," said Scrivens. "I didn't feel like I was fighting it, I felt like I was seeing the puck, but it's weird to have four goals go in and still feel like you played pretty good."
4. A defensive gem last year, the Marlies have been inconsistent in their own end so far this fall, yielding three goals or more in four of the six games they've played. Eakins and the coaching staff implemented a new defensive system at the outset of training camp – one aligned with Randy Carlyle's at the NHL level – but that adjustment has not been the primary issue according to the head coach. "That's going to take a little bit of time, but the goals that they're scoring and the chances that they're getting, the more I look at them, they're not because of the new system, it's other breakdowns," Eakins explained. "It's not a major concern right now, but I want to get our game back here where we're giving one goal a night and that's it. That's the way we want to play."
5. Reunited with Joe Colborne on a line that also included Leo Komarov, Ashton impressed in his all-around efforts Friday, scoring his first goal of the season and making significant contributions on the penalty kill. The 21-year-old deposited a rebound past Bulldogs goalie Peter Delmas, following a strong drive toward the Hamilton goal from Komarov. "I thought Carter played probably his best game of the season," said Eakins. "He was real involved." Balanced scoring has been an early key for the Marlies with 11 different players finding the scoresheet after six games. Several key offensive performers have yet to find the back of the cage, including Colborne (three assists), Nazem Kadri (three assists), Keith Aucoin (leads the team with six points, all assists), and Greg Scott (20 goals last season). Jake Gardiner managed his third goal of the season in the win, tied for second in team scoring with Mike Kostka.
Next Game: Thursday at Abbottsford