There’s something about the St. John’s IceCaps that gives the Manchester Monarchs trouble every time the two teams meet. While the Monarchs sit atop the AHL standings, they have only won three of nine meeting with the Winnipeg Jets primary affiliate coming into Sunday’s game.
One factor possibly playing into the struggles versus their division rivals could be the constant loss of players the Monarchs sustained, be it to the NHL or to injuries. Sunday saw the Monarchs with their full fire power at coach Mark Morris’ disposal.
Even with one of the strongest lineups all year, it was a struggle for Manchester to end their weekend with their third win in three days, beating St. John’s 4-3 in the shootout.
An uneventful and sloppy first period saw no score for either side, with St. John’s leading in shots eight to six.
Newly acquired winger Steve Quailer would open the scoring for the Monarchs at 5:24 of the second period. After calming down a bouncing puck passed to him by Scott Sabourin, Quailer entered the offensive zone in a two-on-one with Sabourin. The former Hamilton Bulldog slowed up to avoid a sliding IceCaps defender and released a wrist shot to the far post behind Michael Hutchinson. Quailer’s second goal on the season, and his first with the team, was assisted by Sabourin and Andrew Bodnarchuk.
Just over a minute and a half later, St. John’s answered with a goal from Swedish born winger Carl Klingberg. Collecting a drop pass from Eric O’Dell, Klingberg threw a fluttering on puck, beating goalie Martin Jones. Picking up a secondary assist on the goal was defenseman Zach Redmond.
The visiting IceCaps would take their first lead of the game after Jets top prospect Adam Lowry scored his 13th goal of the year. Battling hard in the offensive corner, Jerome Samson escaped along the boards with the puck, tapping the puck over to Kael Mouillierat, who then found a wide open Lowry in front of the net. As Jones went to poke the puck off of his stick, Lowry slid the puck five hole for a 2-1 lead.
In the dying seconds of the middle period, the Monarchs found an answering goal, thanks to Nick Deslauriers’ 16th of the year. Taking a pass from Tyler Toffoli at the blue line, Derek Forbort threw a low shot towards the net, which was stopped by the right pad of Hutchinson. Deslauriers, positioned right in front of the net, took two or three whacks at the ensuing rebound before beating the IceCaps netminder.
Manchester entered the second intermission feeling extremely lucky to be in a tie game. After a sluggish first period, they followed it up by being thoroughly dominated by St. John’s to the tune of being outshot 22-9. Had it not been for a handful of huge saves from Jones and a goal with two seconds on the clock, the Monarchs would likely enter the third trailing by multiple goals.
Early in the third period, John Albert would once again put the IceCaps in the lead, redirecting a point shot by Ben Chiarot. Two Monarchs player stood in front of Jones, not allowing him to track the deflection as it floated in over his left shoulder. Redmond picked up his second assist of the game on the goal that made it a 3-2 game.
Once again, the Monarchs found an answer, coming from Deslauriers for his second goal of the game. A clear in attempt was sent behind the IceCaps net, where Hutchinson went to play it to one of his teammates. Toffoli got in on the forecheck and pressured the opposing goalie, forcing a turnover and throwing the puck to the front of the net. From there, the puck found its way near the blue line, where Deslauriers fired it home to tie the game at three.
A five minute overtime period saw no winner for either team, meaning the game would go to a shootout. Nick Shore and Jordan Weal would score for the Monarchs and Jones stopped all four shooters he faced, giving the home team the win and an extra point over a division rival.
For Deslauriers, the two goals put him at a point-per-game pace through the month of February so far. The converted winger has seen his ice time limited thanks to Toffoli’s return to Manchester. Despite this, he has still played solid hockey in whatever role is asked of him. While at times he still gets lost with his defensive positioning, his rare combination of size, speed, and skill make him among the most intriguing prospects the Kings have waiting in the wings.
The last few games, Jones has joked about having a bit of a light workload during what is likely his last stint as a Monarchs goalie. Sunday saw a very different story, as Jones stopped 40 of 43 shots the IceCaps took. His strongest play came in between the two goals St. John’s scored in the second period, where he made many crucial saves using strong lateral movement. The weekend saw Jones pick up three wins in three days and allowed him to continue to work on his game, something he would not be able to do in LA currently under the Olympic freeze.
Though he was held off the scoresheet, Kyle MacKinnon was among the best skaters for St. John’s. MacKinnon played a solid defensive game, breaking up scoring chances for the Monarchs, while also creating some for his own team. He was one of the most noticeable players for either team, involving himself in all aspects of the game, and standing out amongst a crowd of quality prospects playing for both teams.
A pair of sizable wingers, Carl Klingberg and Adam Lowry, also played strong games for St. John’s. Both use their size well and are strong on the forecheck. Klingberg utilized his great skating to push the Monarchs’ defense back, creating room for himself and his linemates. On the other hand, Lowry exercised good hockey IQ by finding the soft spot on the ice to set himself up on his second period goal.
The win gave the Monarchs three wins in three days, beating Worcester on Friday and Hartford on Saturday. Toffoli scored five goals and two assists in the three games, while Jones was in net for all three victories.
The Monarchs will be back in action on Friday, February 21, as they take on the Springfield Falcons at 7 PM in Manchester.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:
Tanner Pearson – Linden Vey – Tyler Toffoli
Brian O’Neill – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Nick Deslauriers – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
Steve Quailer – Andy Andreoff – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Chris Huxley
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