With the Olympic games in Sochi looming, the Manchester Monarchs reaped the benefits of the lull in NHL action.
Returning to the Monarchs lineup on Saturday night were Tyler Toffoli, Jeff Schultz, and Martin Jones, all key contributors in their own way. With a revitalized lineup, Manchester looked to take down division rivals in the Providence Bruins while donning pink jerseys in support of breast cancer awareness.
After a sloppy start by both teams, the Bruins would strike first, as Matt Fraser scored his 17th on the year with the man advantage. The Bruins worked the puck along the perimeter of the Monarchs’ zone until Ryan Spooner threw a puck towards the net. Fraser picked up the puck and scored on his back hand to give his team the 1-0 lead.
In the second period, the Monarchs tied the game thanks to a Nick Deslauriers goal. Stepping up at the blue line, the winger knocked a clearing attempt out of the air and skated back into the Bruins zone. From there, he let a shot go from the left side of the ice that beat Niklas Svedberg but stayed out until Deslauriers used his long reach to tap in his own rebound.
In a bizarre turn of events, Deslauriers was called for a four minute high stick immediately after his goal, which coach Mark Morris was less than thrilled about. After reaching out with one hand to push the loose puck into the net, Deslauriers’ momentum carried him behind the goal while his stick remained in the crease. His movement caused his stick to fling back and catch a Bruins player in the face, resulting in his trip to the penalty box.
Providence regained the lead later in the period, as Andrew Cherniwchan beat Jones with a shot. During a scramble to the left of the Monarchs’ goalie, Cherniwchan found the loose puck and buried it for his fourth of the year.
Early in the third period, the Bruins extended their lead to two thanks to a Mike Moore goal. Monarchs’ defenseman Colin Miller went for a big hit in the corner and got caught out of position, allowing for the Bruins to have the numbers advantage in front of Jones. A quick passing sequence saw Moore have the puck all alone in front of Jones and he held on long enough to beat the Manchester netminder. Picking up the assists on the play were Anthony Camara and Alexander Khokhlachev.
Just over two minutes later, Vey netted his 10th of the year on the power play to bring the the Monarchs within one. After having a goal disallowed due to the net being knocked off, Vey took a cross-ice pass from Deslauriers and fire the one-timer past Svedberg. Toffoli also picked up a helper on the play.
In front of the largest and most vocal crowd on the year, the Monarchs fought hard to tie the game during the remaining time, but ultimately fell short. Svedberg stood tall and protected the lead, resulting in the Bruins winning the game by a final score of 3-2.
After a bit of an adjustment period, the reunited White Line of Pearson, Vey, and Toffoli came on in the third period. The trio hasn’t played together in months and it showed during the first two periods. Come the final 20 minutes and the line showed why they were among the best in the AHL last season. Every shift they had saw the trio dominate in time of possession and resulted in many scoring chances.
“Yeah, I think it’ll take a little time. I think we were all kind of trying a little too much at points. I think in the third we kind of simplified it a little bit and obviously scored the goal. We were getting a lot of opportunities,” spoke Toffoli on his lines’ play.
With Pearson and Toffoli flanking Vey, Deslauriers shifted down to a line centered by Nick Shore. Despite less ice time than he’s seen as of late, Deslauriers played a very strong game Saturday night. His goal was the result of a great individual effort, using his strong shot to beat Svedberg and his speed and power to bury the rebound. The former defenseman also showed great vision finding Vey for his goal.
Reunited with long time partner Vincent LoVerde, defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk continues to build his case for his shot at an NHL call up. Bodnarchuk brought his physical game all night versus the division rival Bruins. He utilized a strong and low point shot to create offensive opportunities while also reading the play well and knew when to jump in on the rush. Strong in nearly all facets of the game, Bodnarchuk continues to play a strong game for the Monarchs.
After the game, coach Morris voiced his frustrations with the way the game unfolded. More animated than he has been after any game this year, Morris talked about the frustration of having the net kicked off its moorings, leading to Vey’s disallowed goal, as well as commenting on Deslauriers’ questionable call.
“There wasn’t really an explanation. You know, the way I saw it was that after he poked it in the net, he was shoved and his stick whipped off the post and came back and the guy that shoved him got the stick in the mouth. But he had poked it in the net, got pushed, and the stick whiplashed off the post, and caught the guy. And we took a four minute penalty on that. That’s hard to swallow,” Morris elaborated on the penalty assessed to Deslauriers following his goal.
On Thursday, the Kings traded Robbie Czarnik to the Montreal Canadiens for Steve Quailer, who like Czarnik had struggled to crack his team’s lineup. Quailer was unable to practice with the team before Saturday’s game and is questionable to play Sunday, as the Monarchs take on the Albany Devils at 3 PM.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Saturday were as follows:
Tanner Pearson – Linden Vey – Tyler Toffoli
Brian O’Neill – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Nick Deslauriers – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
AJ Gale – Andy Andreoff – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
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