Marlies stumble out of gate

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

ROCHESTER -- Good thing the American Hockey League scheduled the Toronto Marlies' inaugural game away from the self-proclaimed centre of the hockey universe.

The Maple Leafs' re-located top farm club needs time to sort out some defensive and special teams issues before it makes its debut in front of the Leafs nation and general manager John Ferguson Jr.

After a 4-0 pre-season, the Marlies fell back to the pack with a thud, losing 8-5 to the defending regular-season champion Rochester Americans in the AHL season opener for both clubs before 8,642 last night at Blue Cross Arena.

"I think we've got to start a new tradition for the Marlies," said second-year pro winger Colin Murphy, one of the few bright spots for the Marlies as he scored the franchise's first two goals. "We obviously wanted to come out with the first win in a Marlies uniform, which is disappointing. But it's a long season, 80 games is a long year. We've just got to bounce back and wear the Marlies jersey proud."

The Marlies didn't do too much to sell their product in front of a national television and Toronto radio audience. New coach Paul Maurice will spend the next four days working out the kinks before the home opener Wednesday at the Ricoh Coliseum against the Syracuse Crunch.

"At this level, this has got to be a process from start to finish," said Maurice, whose team was outshot 50-31 last night. "We've got a game we have to teach and implement and we've got some work to do with that, no question."

Marlies goalie J.F. Racine was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Aubin after two periods with the Americans up 7-4. The Americans were 4-for-8 on the power play and capitalized on several Toronto defensive lapses and odd-man rushes.

"We made some mistakes up ice ... and kind of hung our D out to dry," Maurice said. "There were some mistakes by our back end, but I didn't look at it like we were positionally solid up front at all. We did a lot of unusual things in the neutral zone."

Carlo Colaiacovo, Brad Brown and John Pohl also scored for Toronto. Derek Roy, with two goals and three assists, Greg Jacina, Chris Taylor, Gregory Campbell, Michael Ryan, Anthony Stewart and Chris Thorburn scored for the Amerks, an affiliate for the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers.

The Marlies, minus star forward Kyle Wellwood, who was called up to the Leafs yesterday, will not have the services of winger Mike Hoffman for the home opener. He will receive a one-game suspension after he was handed an instigator penalty for a fight in the final minute.

"We've been waiting all summer, five months for this time (the home opener)," Murphy said. "We're excited to get back home and see how the crowd is and play well in Toronto."


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