Matt Finn scores first AHL goal in Marlies loss

AHL rookie Matt Finn’s milestone moment gave the Toronto Marlies a spark. But the Hamilton Bulldogs wound up crashing the party.

Finn unleashed a seeing-eye shot from his customary position at the left blue line to give the Marlies a two-goal second period lead, netting his first career AHL goal. Unfortunately to the disappointment of the near sellout crowd at Ricoh Coliseum, Hamilton roared back with three consecutive scores – including the overtime winner – to earn the extra point for a 4-3 win, sweeping the weekend home-and-home series.

“I’m relieved, it took a while,” Finn said of his tally after the game. “It’s been a slow start to the year for me, but I think I’ve been playing a little bit better as the year’s gone on. To get the first one was something really nice.”

The Maple Leafs’ second-round pick in 2012, Finn spent most of December playing for the ECHL affiliate in Orlando where he picked up a goal and an assist in eight games. Saturday afternoon’s tilt was the Guelph Storm alumnus’s 19th game of the year with the Marlies; his fifth since being recalled to the team in January.

Finn paid close attention to fundamentals during his brief tenure in Florida with the Solar Bears, an initiative that he said was key to his development. “I worked on moving my feet, getting back to the basics,” he said. “I started the year with an injury that kind of put me back a bit. But getting my feet back under me, and getting back in the rush, and playing the way that I was accustomed to in junior helped me benefit from the games down there.”

Hamilton and Toronto exchanged first period goals, by Drayson Bowman and Brandon Kozun respectively. The Marlies got off to a fast start in the second frame with Carter Ashton getting his fourth marker of the season just 22 seconds into the period. Just over three minutes later, Finn’s goal appeared to give his team some breathing room.

But Maxime Macenauer – stationed in the slot – tipped home a point shot to get the visitors within a goal. Then in the third period, Bulldogs captain Gabriel Dumont evened the score. Marlies goaltender Antoine Bibeau had to be solid to preserve as much as a point for his team that was outshot 14-5 in the final 20 minutes.

Bulldogs forward Sven Andrighetto made quick work of the extra session, scoring on the only shot by either team at the 37-second mark of overtime to end the game.

“We got off to a pretty good start,” said Marlies coach Gord Dineen “In the first period we were a little bit tentative. In the end, I think maybe we were a little overhyped as far as guys wanting to respond to (Friday’s 3-0 loss). We got better as the game went on through the second period. As the third period went, I thought we started to miss some of the details of the game.

We let them come to us instead of keeping our forecheck going.”

Highly-touted first-round draft pick William Nylander was held pointless in his home debut after playing his first career AHL game on Friday.

While Finn has no immediate plans for his milestone puck, Dineen is optimistic about the defenceman’s progress.

“I was glad to see him step up,” Dineen said. “We know he’s got offensive talent. I think it’s a matter of confidence for him. He’s finally making those plays that are going to into results for him. He’s just got to follow it up and make sure that both sides of the puck are taken care of.”

(photo credit: TipOfTheTower.com)

Forward lines:
Nylander-McKegg-Frattin
Leivo-Rupert-Brown
Abbott-Carrick-Kozun
Ashton-Biggs-Bodie

Defence pairings:
Loov-Granberg
MacWilliam-Marshall
Finn-Mikkelson

Goalies:
Bibeau (OT-loss)
Gibson (backup)

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo