One of the marks of a great team is their ability to face and overcome adversity.
Still feeling the effects of NHL call-ups paired with a rash of injuries, the Monarchs turned to new faces to fill out their roster once again. Recently signed to professional tryout agreements, forwards A.J. Gale, Cameron Burt, and Mike Ullrich all played their first AHL games of the year on Friday night against the visiting Worcester Sharks.
Just under four minutes into the first period, Sean Backman picked up his third goal of the year with a beautiful forehand-to-backhand deke, burying the puck top-shelf behind netminder Harri Sateri. The play developed as Burt and Backman dished the puck back and forth, while working it up the ice. The Yale grad then found Kings prospect Scott Sabourin, who carried it into the offensive zone before feeding the puck back to Backman for the first goal of the game.
Manchester thoroughly dominated the opening minutes of the first period until Curt Gogol found a way to slip a puck past goalie JF Berube. While battling in the corner, Worcester winger Riley Brace threw a backhand pass to the front, right to the stick of Gogol, for the tying tally. Berube’s hesitation to poke-check Gogol opened up his five-hole just enough for the puck to pass through.
Then, on Manchester’s first shot of the second frame, Ullrich notched a goal, giving him a memorable AHL debut. At the end of a foot race for a loose puck in the Sharks zone, Backman knocked Worcester’s Adam Comrie off the puck, leaving it free for Ullrich to carry it behind the net. From there, the recent signee threw it out front, where it hit a defender’s skate and went in the net to reclaim the lead for the Monarchs.
Near the end of the second, Manchester forward Nick Deslauriers was penalized for a four minute high-sticking call after he clipped Rob Davison in the face. Worcester’s veteran defenseman immediately went to the locker room, but would return for the third period.
Down by a goal, that four minute advantage would provide the Sharks’ best chance to work their way back into a tie. Yet despite three minutes of the power play being on fresh ice to start the third period, they couldn’t beat the Monarch’s strong penalty killing efforts.
A few minutes later, Sabourin was able to steal the puck from a Sharks defenseman and enter the zone on a two-on-one break. Skating down the right side of the ice, the lanky winger thought ‘shot’ the entire way and sniped one past Sateri to extent the lead to two goals.
After a strong push from the visiting Sharks failed to get them back in the game, Brandon Kozun put the game on ice. Entering the zone on the left side, the always dangerous winger threw a cross-ice pass to Deslauriers, whose shot rebounded right back to Kozun for the easy put in. His fifth goal of the year gave the Monarchs a 4-1 lead and the game would later end by the same score.
Starting his fifth game of the year and fourth in a row since Martin Jones was called up to LA, Berube once again played well. Rebound control was the name of the game for the Francophone. If Berube was unable to smother a puck for a whistle, he put it in the corner or out of play. There were few, if any, juicy rebounds for the opposing team to jump on. After playing the past few years in the ECHL, Berube is now showing his true potential. Fundamentals can either make or break a goaltender and he’s consistently showing just how strong his skills are.
It has been an up and down few months for Sabourin after attending Kings Training Camp as an invitee. Later signed by the Monarchs to an AHL contract, the scrappy winger impressed LA management enough to earn an NHL deal. With no roster room and still needing to develop his game, the Ontario native struggled a bit to start the season. However, the past few games have been a turning point for Sabourin, as he’s been playing much better.
“I wouldn’t say it was my best game of the year,” he said following the win. “I had a couple of chances that worked out but there’s still a lot of work done to be defensively. It’s good to be contributing, to be helping out, to get a couple of points but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Friday’s game turned chippy late, as referee Trevor Hanson put his whistle in his proverbial pocket. Questionable plays going uncalled lead to an increase in physicality as the game progressed and midway through the third it culminated with a fight between Gogol and Andy Andreoff.
“[We] have a little past,” Andreoff shared with a smirk. “We always battle every game. We play them so many times, so we always hate each other.”
Of the three fresh faces, Burt was the most impressive. Having spent parts of the last three seasons with the Ontario Reign, the Kings’ ECHL affiliate, Burt may be a bit familiar with the style of play the organization demands from its players. He involved himself in all facets of the game, creating plays, throwing his weight around, and even seeing time on the penalty kill. If Burt can build off of his success in his first AHL game, he may see himself stick in Manchester for an extended period.
The Monarchs are back in action Saturday, November 23 as the Providence Bruins come to town.
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