The metaphorical revolving door outside the Monarchs locker room continued to spin, as a slew of transactions occurred before the team’s game versus the Worcester Sharks on Friday night.
Manchester lost top winger Tyler Toffoli and steady defenseman Jeff Schultz, as the duo were called up to the Los Angeles Kings. Paired with the move was the return of Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson, after both had their second stints of the season with the big club.
On Wednesday, high scoring forward Brandon Kozun was traded at his request, heading to the Toronto. In return, the Kings picked up the hulking Andrew Crescenzi, who had also asked for a trade, citing a logjam of centers within the Leafs’ organization.
The next day, Russian forward Max Kitsyn was assigned to the Ontario Reign of the ECHL, while Cameron Burt was released from his PTO and will also will join the Reign.
Thus, with a multitude of roster moves completed, the Monarchs went into Friday’s game with a bit of a different look. By the end of the night though, the result would be the same the team has become used to, picking up their 27th victory of the season by a final score of 2-1.
The Monarchs opened the scoring late in the first when Brian O’Neill tapped home his tenth of the season. Winger Zach O’Brien got the puck near the left offensive corner, blindly backhanded a pass to the front of the net, where Nick Shore fed the wide open O’Neill for the goal. A near perfect passing sequence gave Worcester goalie Harri Sateri no chance to stop O’Neill, who was the Monarchs most dangerous forward in the first period.
After a rather uneventful second period, the home team carried their 1-0 lead into the third stanza. O’Brien took a slap shot from inside the right offensive circle that beat Sateri for his fourth goal on the season. O’Brien took a cross ice feed from Shore, while Ian O’Connor provided the screen in front of the net.
Midway through the period, the Sharks got on the board thanks to a Matt Tennyson power play goal, making the score 2-1. Moving to his left, Tennyson one-timed a feed from Dylan DeMelo from the point, beating a heavily screened JF Berube. Also picking up an assist on the play was forward Freddie Hamilton.
Timely saves by Berube sealed the deal and the Monarchs held on for the win.
Berube, who has assumed the full-time starter role with Martin Jones now in LA, put on a very solid performance. At times on the year, the young goalies has allowed shots to get through him. On Friday, he made sure there were no holes in his body for shooters to squeeze a puck through. Every shot that hit him was either covered for a whistle or directed into a corner.
“I still want to keep the same mindset. I want to keep developing my game and just keep pushing forward. It was good to have Jonesy here. I was able to learn a lot from him and he helped my game, and I’m sure I helped his game too so it was good that I had him to push myself,” Berube said, on how it feels being the Monarchs number one goalie going forward.
Having one of his best games of the year, defennseman Andrew Bodnarchuk showed just how versatile he is. Involved in all three zones, Bodnarchuk showed off his smooth skating, offensive prowess, and defensive ability. He also threw a big hit, showing he is capable of playing a physical game at times. Though he was held off of the scoresheet, he managed a plus two rating, meaning he was on the ice for both Monarchs goals. With Schulz absent, it was key for the remaining defenseman to pick up the slack and Bodnarchuk responded in a big way.
Transitioning from college life to playing professional hockey can be a tough adjustment and take time for a player to fully feel comfortable. After taking his time to learn the ropes, Shore’s game has started to turn the corner over the past two months. Known as a two way forward, Shore’s defensive game was never an issue. His offense took a while to translate next level, but he has settled into his new team and began producing steadily. In 10 games during the month of January, the center has accumulated eight points. At the same time, his defensive game has continued to be among the best of all Monarchs forwards. On Friday, Shore also displayed an element of his game that will go a long way into creating an NHL career, as he won nine of the 11 faceoffs he took.
In his first game with a new organization, Andrew Crescenzi showed off some of the reasons why the Kings were interested in him. Playing a fourth line role, the center saw limited ice time but was able to produce a quality scoring chance on his very first shift, while also throwing a big hit along the boards, forcing a turnover. The six-foot-five forward saw time on the PK and was the second best Monarch on the draw, winning nine of 13 faceoffs. Though he did not flash much offensive ability, he was able to involve himself in the game in other ways, helping his team to victory.
With Schultz in LA and Chris Huxley still nursing an injury, Nick Deslauriers shifted back to defense for the night. He will likely stay at the position until Huxley is healthy or Schultz returns to the team.
After the game, coach Morris did not indicate who would start in goal on Saturday, as the team is facing three games in three days. He indicated that Mathias Niederberger may see his first start of the year either this weekend or next.
The Monarchs are back in action, Saturday, January 25, as they take on the Portland Pirates on LA Kings Night. The team will wear a jersey paying homage to the Kings ‘Burger King’ alternate sweater.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Andy Andreoff – Linden Vey – Tanner Pearson
Sean Backman – Jordan Weal – Brian O’Neill
Ian O’Connor – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
Hunter Bishop – Andrew Crescenzi – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Colin Miller
Nick Deslauriers – Vincent LoVerde
Follow @AndyTonge1 for more Monarchs news and notes.