The Monarchs likely took to the ice with revenge on their minds Saturday, after dropping the first game of a back-to-back set against the visiting St. John’s IceCaps the night before. With Kings GM Dean Lombardi in attendance once again, Manchester used a four goal second period to ultimately come out on top 5-3 in the rematch.
Playing the second game in less than 24 hours, both teams struggled at the start. Sloppy plays resulted in a first period with limited scoring opportunities for either squad.
One must wonder what coach Mark Morris said to his players during the intermission though, as the Monarchs were a completely different team in the second frame. First-year pro Nick Shore started the scoring, beating goaltender Jussi Olkinuora between the legs with a powerful wrister from the left boards.
“Yeah, obviously I played with Jussi for two years there at [Denver University] so it just happened to be that he was in the net for that one, so I’m sure I’ll give him a shout after,” said a smiling Shore, when asked if it was special to score his first pro goal on an old friend.
Tyler Toffoli, the Kings top prospect, was next to find his way onto the score sheet. With Jordan Weal joining the rush just as his penalty expired, the sniper dragged the puck, used the defender as a screen and fired home his sixth goal of the year. Olkinuora appeared to get a piece of it but, nevertheless, the puck found the back of the net.
Then, just under two minutes later, Linden Vey added to the lead when he tallied his third on the year via a power play goal. Brandon Kozun showed his tremendous offensive vision on the play, throwing the puck cross-ice to a wide open Vey, who simply had to shoot it into a wide open net.
With the Monarchs back on the power play four minutes later, Toffoli potted his second of the game and seventh of the year. Once again, Weal’s talents were on display here. First he faked a shot before putting a perfectly placed pass on Toffoli’s stick for the easy goal.
Coming out for the third period confidence was soaring for the home team, having built a 4-0 lead. Yet, the game quickly unraveled in front of the nearly 4,000 fans in attendance.
By the four minute mark St. John’s had already cut the lead in half, following a wrap-around goal from Brendon Kichton and another marker from New Hampshire native and former Monarch Ian O’Connor. He threw a puck at the net that bounced off teammate Andrew Gordon and found its way past goalie Martin Jones.
As the atmosphere in Verizon Wireless Arena changed drastically, things became even more tense when Kael Mouillierat slapped home another IceCaps goal. Now leading by only one goal with 15 minutes left in regulation, the Monarchs defensive game needed to tighten up.
Looking for some sort of offensive spark, Morris once again turned to the ‘White Line’ for help. After almost scoring on their previous shift, Tanner Pearson recorded the group’s fourth goal of the game and padded the team’s lead by making it 5-3. Things developed when Toffoli intercepted a pass at the blue line and with his stick tied up kicked a pass forward. Pearson flew down the middle of the ice to beat the defender to the puck and went forehand-backhand, and then to the back of the net.
Jones, making his third start in only four days, shut the door the rest of the way. Overall, he stopped 21 shots on Saturday and led his team to yet another victory.
“We’re trying to get him as much work as we can,” said Morris. “Obviously, he has the hot hand right now and you don’t want to take your foot off the accelerator if things are working well.”
With reports surfacing that Lombardi may be preparing to make a roster move…
— The Mayor John Hoven (@mayorNHL) October 27, 2013
…the smart bet is to assume Pearson will be on his way back to LA soon. It’s no secret the Kings need more from their left wings and Pearson has been superb to start the year. Finishing with a goal and a game-high six shots, Pearson has shown great work ethic, physicality, defensive awareness, and the offensive touch that led to him being a first round draft pick in 2012.
Toffoli is always an option as well, especially considering he was one of the Kings better players during the playoffs last season. The fact he plays right wing comes with other roster considerations though. So, he may have to wait a little longer before returning to the NHL.
On a different note, Nick Deslauriers continues to show that his transition to the wing was a smart idea. In the final minute of the second period, the Quebec native laid a massive hit on St. John’s Will O’Neill. Unhappy with being crunched in to the board, O’Neill went after Deslauriers and the two dropped the gloves.
“When you do a big hit, you have to look everywhere because you know somebody is coming. It’s already been my second fight because of a hit,” remarked Deslauriers.
Taking eight penalties in one game is never something you want to do, even though the IceCaps struggled to break through the stellar penalty killing of the Monarchs (they were just 1-for-8 with the man advantage).
The win improves the Monarchs record to 6-1-1-2, giving them 15 points and a spot atop the league-wide AHL standings. It may be early, but through ten games, the Monarchs have looked every bit the part of Calder Cup contenders.
To read the report filed on Friday’s Monarchs game, click here.
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