Toronto Marlies defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer on a hot streak

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You would expect a guy named Noel to heat up this time of the holidays.

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Defenceman Noel Hoefenmayer of the Marlies is on quite a festive fling, a five-game points streak with the winning goal in the past two, including the Marlies’ 3-2 win over Belleville in a Boxing Day battle at Scotiabank Arena.

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For a Maple Leafs stable that has begun generating more home-grown defencemen, that’s surely noteworthy. Being 23 and six feet tall helps, too.

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Hoefenmayer could pot the puck in junior, with 26 goals his final season with Ottawa in 2019-20. He was not signed by Arizona, the team which drafted him in the fourth round in 2017. Now, all facets of his game are improving in this, his first full AHL season. He’s at 24 points in 25 games, fourth among league blueliners.

“With the team we have (36 shots on Monday), everyone has the ability to be offensive and mine is coming out because everyone else moves so smart,” said the Toronto native. “I’ve had that shot since I was playing in my driveway (he’s a Toronto Nationals-Don Mills Flyers product) and kept it sharp. With the resources we have, it’s easy to grow in this organization.”

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Adam Gaudette’s hustle behind the Senators net sent the puck back to Hoefenmayer’s partner Marshall Rifai and over to him for a one-timer in the team’s fourth straight win.

“He is not shy to hit the puck at the blueline,” remarked Marlies coach Greg Moore. “His confidence is at an all-time high and it’s great to watch him have a long runway with this team to get used to the league. He’s always believed in himself and we’ve believed in him.”


Kyle Clifford saw enough wrong with an attempted open-ice hit on teammate Marc Johnstone to deliver some frontier justice.

But in going after Ridly Greig at the Belleville bench, Clifford was booted from the game as the aggressor and likely suffered a dislocated right hand while landing a couple of punches. With almost 1,000 NHL penalty minutes, Clifford only had four minors in seven AHL games.

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“A high-character play and I thanked him a few times,” Johnstone said. “Maybe I’ll take him to dinner.”

Johnstone, a 26-year-old journeyman forward who earned promotion from Toronto’s ECHL operation in Newfoundland this year, was in the middle of many puck battles.

“He’s involved in a lot, hard to play against 5-on-5, cutting people off,” Moore praised.  “His penalty killing, execution of details, willingness to block shots, absorb a hit to make a pass, get off the wall in the offensive zone, there is a lot of subtle things he does.


Johnstone, Joseph Blandisi, captain Logan Shaw and Hoefenmayer are part of the AHL’s hottest penalty kill. After defusing four challenges on Monday, Toronto is 37 of 39, that covers three instigator majors including Clifford’s. The Sens didn’t get a shot in their five-minute opportunity.

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“We weren’t happy with the kill our first 20 games,” Blandisi said. “(Assistant coach) John Snowden has done a great job and we’re buying into it now.”


Lanky Keith Petruzzelli made 18 saves Monday. He was called up by the Leafs in early November when the parent club was in its goaltending injury crisis after he got off to an extraordinary AHL start. But he didn’t play and back on the farm was relegated once Joseph Woll was active and Erik Kallgren also came back from the Leafs. “It’s tough when you go up to another level, you get out of your rhythm,” Moore said. “He’s found it again the past couple of games.” Draft pick Woll, meanwhile, has a record of 5-0-0 with a .932 save percentage … Blandisi and forward Semyon Der-Arguchintsev have six-game points streaks … After a return engagement in Belleville on Wednesday, the Marlies have a season-long six game home stand that includes a 4 p.m. game on New Year’s Eve at Coca-Cola Coliseum against Rochester …  Monday was Simon Bennett’s 500th game as the Marlies’ public address announcer.

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