It was all smiles in Manchester Friday night as the hometown crowd saw a familiar face for the first time since he left the team in November. With Jonathan Quick’s return from injury, Martin Jones finally returned to the Monarchs lineup Friday night, as his team took on the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
On the flip side, the Monarchs were without one of their top wingers. With the Kings goaltending situation back to what it was at the start of the year, Los Angeles found themselves with an open roster spot thanks to the trade of Daniel Carcillo to the New York Rangers. The organization called up Tanner Pearson to fill the slot, who was tied for the team lead in goals with 13.
A major key to success throughout the season for Manchester has been the ability to score early goals. Once again, the team was able to continue with this trend, as Scott Sabourin opened the scoring just 3:41 into the game. With the puck deep in the right offensive zone corner, Sabourin moved in and forced a turnover with his physical play. From there, he was able to carry the puck to the net and just manage to get one past Sound Tigers goalie Kenny Reiter.
Though the shots were tied at 10 after one period, the play on the ice told a different story. Manchester dominated the period, forcing long stretches of sustained pressure in the Sound Tigers zone, while not allowing any high quality scoring chances.
The second period was much of the same, as Manchester again controlled the play and was able to extend their lead to 2-0. After Zach O’Brien received a pass from Linden Vey and drove to the net, Brandon Kozun jumped on the loose puck and put it past Reiter. The goal came on the power play, an area where the team has struggled all year.
Bridgeport did have two quality scoring chances in the period, but both were turned away by Jones. Their opportunities came few and far between, while Manchester continued to pour on the pressure.
Frustration set in to begin the third for the visitors, as a slew of penalties were handed out 4:28 into the final frame. The altercation began when Mike Halmo took exception to an attempted hit by Kozun and responded by repeatedly throwing punches at the Monarchs winger, who was an unwilling combatant. Seeing his teammate in trouble, Andy Andreoff skated over to intervene, and was met by Scott Mayfield, as the two dropped their gloves for a fight in which the Monarchs forward won quite handily.
Down by two and with time running out, the Sound Tigers pulled Reiter for an extra attacker. With just 1:40 left to play in regulation, Joe Diamond’s shot right off the faceoff beat Jones, making it a 2-1 game. The shot came from right in the slot and Jones may not have been able to see the quick release from Diamond’s stick.
Back-to-back empty net goals gave the Monarchs a 4-1 victory. The first came from Linden Vey, who fired the puck from his own zone after a slight bit of confusion when a moronic fan threw a foam puck on the ice during play. Manchester was lucky the goal stood, as it could have easily been argued that the second puck on the ice interfered with play, as it landed not far from the game puck. Nevertheless, the goal stood and the game was closed out with a fourth goal from Sean Backman.
In his return to Manchester, Jones was solid. A few times, he struggled to field the puck cleanly but when he did, he recovered well and was only beat by one perfectly placed shot on the night. Early in the second, Jones made two huge saved on a shorthanded breakaway by Aaron Ness. At the time of those saves, the Monarchs were only up by one goal, making them all the more important. Head coach Mark Morris was elated to have Jones back but is still thinking about life without his starting goalie.
“It’s probably going to be his role at some point. I can’t imagine the Kings are going to let Martin Jones stay here too long,” noted Morris, while discussing what happens with JF Berube with Jones now back in the mix.
Struggling for much of the year, defenseman Colin Miller had a strong outing on the night. Though he was held scoreless, Miller played an incredibly physical game. One one shift alone, he knocked down skilled winger Kirill Kabanov three times. In the third period, he even dropped the mitts and fought Matt Lowry. Miller has struggled on the year, making poor reads and turning the puck over. Friday’s game was one of the best for the rookie defenseman.
Unable to play in the game due to injury was the team’s top scoring defenseman, Andrew Bodnarchuk. With no healthy defenseman available to fill in for him, Nick Deslauriers shifted back to his old position for the night. After the game, Morris indicated that the blueliner should be healthy enough to play Saturday in Albany. During the game, captain Andrew Campbell was shaken up and forced to the locker room early late in the first period. He was late to come out for the second, but eventually returned and did finish the game. Morris stated that Campbell’s injury was just a bruise and it shouldn’t cause him to miss any games this weekend.
After starting a Monarchs record 24 games in a row, JF Berube backed up Jones on the night. Coach Morris indicated the team will turn to Berube for Saturday, before returning to Jones on Sunday.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Andy Andreoff – Linden Vey – Brandon Kozun
Sean Backman – Nick Shore – Brian O’Neill
AJ Gale – Jordan Weal – Zach O’Brien
Ian O’Connor – Hunter Bishop – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Nick Deslauriers – Vincent LoVerde
For an all new interview with Martin Jones, where he reflects back on his first NHL call-up, click here.
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