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Hackett stops penalty shot, Americans beat Marlies

The Canadian Press

10/26/2013 8:56:08 PM

TORONTO -- The Toronto Marlies lost the special-teams battle to the visiting Rochester Americans and that made all the difference.

The Marlies surrendered two power-play goals and failed to score on six man-advantage opportunities en route to a 4-1 defeat in American Hockey League action on Saturday.

"One of the keys we talked about in the dressing room was the special teams game," said Marlies coach Steve Spott. "They go 2-for-7 and we're 0-for-6 and that's the hockey game.

"The effort was there but ultimately our challenge is pure finishing around the net. We have to find ways to manufacture offence and it may not be pretty."

Rochester's Luke Adam scored his seventh goal in seven games, and extended his goal-scoring streak to four games. Mike Zigomanis, Alexander Sulzer and Phil Varone -- with an empty-netter -- provided the rest of the Americans' offence.

Adam and Varone chipped in with an assist apiece for two-point games. The contest also marked Zigomanis' return to Toronto, where he spent the previous four seasons with the Marlies before signing with Rochester last summer.

"They've got some veterans over there, they've got some offensive weapons over there that were good tonight," Spott said. "When you look at Luke Adam and how he's playing right now, he's a natural finisher and he's getting it done."

With the victory, their third win in four outings, the Americans improved to 4-2-1 on the season.

Matt Hackett was sharp in the Rochester goal, making 29 saves and surviving a penalty shot. The Americans' netminder was the beneficiary of solid team defence in front of him, and also got some help from his goalposts.

Toronto defenceman John-Michael Liles clanged one midway through the second period and again in the third, and Marlies defender T.J. Brennan hit the post on a penalty shot early in the third period.

"Give Hackett some credit," Spott said. "Usually the goalie has to be your best penalty-killer and I thought he was excellent for them tonight."

Spencer Abbott had the lone goal for Toronto, his first of the season, in front of 4,169 fans at Ricoh Coliseum.

"I tipped one off the crossbar right before (scoring) and I missed an open net earlier, so I was thinking it might be tough to get that first one," said Abbott, who has eight assists in six games. "But it just squirted out and (Kevin) Marshall made a nice play a it was a tap-in."

Toronto goalie Garret Sparks, making his second start of the season, had 25 saves in a losing effort.

"He battled hard, he competed, I don't fault him on any of the goals," Spott said. "He was solid, he gave us a chance to win."

The Marlies have dropped three of their past four games, scoring a total of six goals in that span, to fall to 4-3-0.

"We have an elite group of defencemen here, we've got some offensively gifted defencemen, so the message is get pucks to the net and then the forwards have to get around the net," Spott said.

"There's some natural finish that you need to have, but we did a good job. We generated a lot, we had pucks around the net. a But ultimately we have to allow our power play to get us a goal every night because 5-on-5, it's a struggle for us to score regularly."

Adam opened the scoring on the power play when he whipped a high wrist shot from the right faceoff circle past Sparks' glove at 16:09 of the first period, just four seconds after Toronto's Tyler Biggs was sent off for holding.

Zigomanis, with his third goal of the season, whacked a rebound over Sparks' blocker at 7:12 of the second period. Sulzer made it 3-0 for the visitors when Adam fired a cross-ice pass which the Americans' defenceman one-timed into the gaping net at 16:58 of the middle frame.

After Brennan's penalty shot hit iron early in the third period, Abbott deposited a rebound into the open net to put the Marlies on the scoreboard at 10:16 and Varone closed out the scoring with an unassisted empty-netter at 19:45.

The Marlies visit the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday, while the Americans are off until next Friday when they host the Syracuse Crunch.