TORONTO – The Marlies bounced back from consecutive losses with a resounding 5-0 win over the Bulldogs at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday night.
Kenny Ryan scored twice in his season debut and Jussi Rynnas made 31 saves for the shutout in his first start of the season.
1. The 21-year-old Ryan received a text message from head coach Dallas Eakins after a 4-1 loss in Hamilton on Friday night, letting him know that he'd be in the lineup against the Bulldogs a day later. "I said 'sounds good, I'm ready'," the Michigan native recalled. Ryan raced out to a pair of goals in the opening frame, also dropping the mitts with Blake Geoffrion in a standout 20 minutes. "I was waiting for the opportunity to get into the game and just wanted to make sure I did the most with it and give myself the best opportunity to make sure I'm playing [Sunday]," he said. "That's what you want him to do and that's what he has to do," said Eakins. "Kenny comes in here tonight and it's like 'Alright we're going to change the lineup, we'll get him a game in.' But now it's you come in after the game, he played so well, he made a statement that it's impossible for me to walk into Kenny Ryan and say 'Hey you're not playing tomorrow'."
2. A second round pick in 2009, Ryan bounced between the Marlies and Reading (ECHL) last season. He scored just once in 16 American League games, a pretty disappointing jump from junior for the former Windsor Spitfire. He learned a thing or two from the underwhelming year. "Pretty much [that] nothing's going to be handed to you," said Ryan. "You've got to work hard every day and that's what I've been trying to do from the first practice this year, give myself the best opportunity to get into the lineup and right now, give myself the best opportunity to stay in the lineup."
3. Ryan jumped at a chance to get into the lineup, replacing Jerry D'Amigo, who'd started slowly this season in the eyes of the coach. "We had a player scratched tonight that hadn't been playing up to expectation," said Eakins, referring to D'Amigo. "Another guy comes in and plays well and so now we stay with the same lineup. That's the challenge now. When you've got a lot of players around and a lot of depth it's not only about playing well it's about playing up to expectations; you don't want to come off your game right now."
4. Injured early last season, Rynnas also saw some action with Reading last year, one part of an early three-goalie trio for the Marlies this fall. "For this year my only goal is taking the number one job," said Rynnas, who is battling for ice-time with starter Ben Scrivens and co-back-up Mark Owuya. "But I think Mark should be a number one goalie in this league and Ben too. Ben is maybe like the best goalie in the whole league. It's a great competition. You have to deserve your every minute here." Hamilton actually outshot Toronto by a 31-24 margin, Rynnas aggressively sharp throughout. "I know he was excited to play," said Eakins. "He was real focused before the game. I tried to talk to him a couple times, but it was almost like I wasn't standing there. He was in the zone right from the start and I respect that, I just left him alone after that."
5. Scrivens started the first three games this fall, yielding seven goals on 60 shots for an .896 save percentage. He's not been poor, but not razor-sharp either. "It's good, now we've got a little push here with Scrivens and Owuya looking over their shoulders," said Eakins, who conceded to the challenge of finding playing time for three goaltenders. "It's going to be a day-by-day and a performance-based thing right now. It's hard to balance and it's hard to balance the way our schedule is…You just have to keep talking to them and breed patience and hope that it eventually sorts itself out." Perhaps no player has more pressure to perform than the 26-year-old Scrivens. He posted terrific numbers last season, guiding the Marlies to the Calder Cup final, doing just about everything the organization could ask. Now his challenge is to replicate and even exceed such success with the prospect of an NHL job looming.