Marlies Tie it Up Twice, But Fall in Overtime to Heat

Tuzzolino overtime hero as Abbotsford Heat edge Toronto Marlies 5-4

Canadian Press
April 15, 2012

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ABBOTSFORD, B.C. _ Nick Tuzzolino spends most of his time by the blue-line, but he had a goal scorer's touch Sunday.

The defenceman scored twice, including once in overtime, to lead the Abbotsford Heat to a 5-4 win over the Toronto Marlies on Sunday in American Hockey League action.

Tuzzolino scored 1:08 into overtime, taking a feed from Greg Nemisz and beating goalie Jussi Rynnas glove side for his third of the season.

``I just jumped up in the play, got a good pass from Nemo, and shot high,'' said Tuzzolino. ``I heard it hit bar, I saw the light and that was it.''

After failing to make the AHL club out of training camp Tuzzolino made the best of his time with the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies, where he scored seven goals in 60 games in a leadership role.

``Nick's played some good minutes for us,'' said Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward. ``The things that we saw today are really a product of how he played in the ECHL. Here's a guy who was a go-to guy ...holding the fort down a lot. (The Grizzlies) were really disappointed that they didn't have him in their first round when they got beat.''

Despite the offensive outburst, the six-foot-five defenceman - who had never previously scored twice in a game, dating back to his major junior career - has no illusions of what is required of him.

``I play a simple, shutdown role with Testy (J.P. Testwuide) as my D partner,'' said Tuzzolino. ``Our job is to give time so (our offensive defencemen) can go out and do their jobs.''

Max Reinhart, playing his first AHL game, also scored twice for Abbotsford (42-26-8), with David Eddy also scoring the first goal of his professional career. Hugh Jessiman assisted on both of Reinhart's goals.

``My two wingers were making passes right on the tape, which in junior you don't always get,'' said Reinhart, who's junior team the Kootenay Ice were eliminated from the Western Hockey League playoffs.

``The guys are a lot stronger (than in junior) but having said that if you find open space, your teammates are going to find you.''

Leland Irving played well enough to win, stopping 18 shots in his first game since March 30. He missed five games while awaiting the birth of his daughter.

``A win elevates anybody's spirits,'' said Ward. ``But at the end of the day what was most important is that he got 60-plus minutes and has a feel for the puck again. We'll look at the tape - there's some plays that he probably wants back.''

Abbotsford had already clinched the Western Conference's fourth spot and will play the Milwaukee Admirals in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The Heat are on a seven-game winning streak and will need that momentum against a team that they have beat just once in four tries this season.

``We've had our struggles in Milwaukee this year,'' said Ward. ``They've got really good stick skills. (But) it didn't matter to us as what team (we drew.) When we're playing our best hockey right now, you might as well play your best.''

Matt Frattin scored twice for the visiting Marlies (44-24-8). Philippe Dupuis and Carter Ashton also scored, while Nazem Kadri had two assists.

Toronto finished second and will take on the Rochester Americans in the first round. The Marlies beat the Americans seven times in 10 games during the season.

Rynnas made 21 saves in the loss.

Abbotsford opened the scoring 9:37 into the first. Hugh Jessiman's shot from the top of the face-off circle was stopped by Rynnas but Reinhart was there to bury the rebound.

Resident tough guy Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond showed a balance of power and skill to set up the Heat's second goal. The seventh-year pro brushed off a Toronto defender and though his first centring pass was blocked, he corralled it and fed Eddy in front of the net with a perfect pass.

Eddy, playing just his fourth AHL game, fired a wrist shot past Rynnas.

The Marlies got on the board with a power-play goal at 17:49. Stuart Percy's point shot was kicked right to Dupuis at the side of the net and he snapped the rebound home for his 15th of the season.

Reinhart recorded his second of the game at 6:48 of the second period. Jessiman forced a turnover in the corner and centred for the 20-year-old rookie in the low slot where Reinhart found the net.

However, the Marlies tied the game with power-play goals 1:43 apart.

Frattin buried a rebound off a Joe Colborne one-timer for his 13th of the season.

Then Jake Gardiner threw the puck toward the net and it squeaked through the pads of a sprawling Irving where Ashton opportunistically shovelled it home for his 21st of the campaign.

Toronto - whose power play is ranked last in the AHL and was just three for their last 34 opportunities - scored three times in seven power-play chances on Sunday.

The Heat had a chance to regain the lead in the third period when Jay Rosehill took a boarding major but it was the Marlies that had the best scoring chance.

Irving needed to make his best saves of the game to keep Ryan Hamilton and then Jerry D'Amigo from giving Toronto the lead.

The Heat made it 4-3 when Adam Estoclet dangled his way across the blue-line and fed a streaking Tuzzolino, who redirected the feed into the net for his second of the year.

However the Marlies tied the game again just 76 seconds later. Frattin buried his second of the game after taking a beautiful backhand feed from Kadri.

That set up overtime, where Tuzzolino snapped in his second of the game to win it.

NOTES: The AHL announced that the Marlies' Ben Scrivens was awarded the Harry (Hap) Holmes Memorial Award, awarded to the goaltender(s) on the team with the fewest goal against. Scrivens, who allowed just two goals in Friday's 3-0 loss to Abbotsford, was 22-15-1 with four shutouts and a 2.04 goals against average in his second pro season. Rynnas and Mark Owuya, though contributing the team's impressive 2.30 GAA, did not play enough games to be named alongside Scrivens.

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