Nobody said hockey is a fair game. After spending the past six seasons in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups in that time, Colin Fraser was sent down to the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. Friday marked his debut with the team, as they hosted Springfield.
The visiting Falcons would open the scoring thanks to former UNH Wildcat Paul Thompson tallying his sixth goal of the year. Controlling the puck in the left offensive corner, the Falcons moved the puck to the front of the net, where Darryl Boyce one-touched a pass to Thompson, who then beat goalie Martin Jones.
A few minutes later, Springfield would extend the lead to two on a shorthanded goal. Skating the puck out of his own zone, Boyce came into the Monarchs zone in a one-on-one against Andrew Bodnarchuk. Boyce put on a nice deke to beat the Monarchs defenseman and then went forehand to backhand for his ninth goal of the year. Assists were given to Jake Hansen and Tim Erixon, son of former NHL forward Jan Erixon.
Through 20 minutes, the Monarchs played with little energy and were outplayed by their opposition. With the White Line of Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey, and Tyler Toffoli all called up to LA, the team would need a player to step up and create a spark offensively.
That spark would come from center Nick Shore. Just over five minutes into the second period, the AHL rookie would score his eighth goal of the year, pulling his team to within one. After solid play along the boards, Shore passed off to defenseman Vincent LoVerde at the point, who threw a wrist shot low on the ice towards Falcons’ goalie Mike McKenna. The puck bounced off McKenna’s pads, where Shore buried the rebound.
Heading into the third still down a goal, another rookie would step up to tie the game at two. After a faceoff in the offensive zone, defenseman Colin Miller would let loose a heavy slap shot to the top left corner of the net. Sean Backman and Jordan Weal would be credited with assists on Miller’s fifth on the season.
Thompson would strike for the second time in the game midway through the final period of regulation. Working the puck from the right half boards to the left point, the Falcon’s Erixon would let a shot go that was deflected in front of the net by Thompson. With Jones sliding to his left to position himself to block the initial shot, the puck would redirect itself to the goalie’s right and in the net.
Once again trailing by one, the Monarchs needed an answer. Late in the period, they would find one thanks to a rare powerplay goal and a bit of offensive help from Jones. As the Falcons went for a change after dumping the puck, Jones corralled it and threw a stretch pass to a wide open Weal. Coming in on a two-on-one, Weal opted to shoot and beat McKenna with a slap shot.
Through 60 minutes, no winner was determined and two of the AHL’s top teams went to overtime. A high energy, fast paced extra five minutes saw neither team score the game winner, meaning the shootout was next. McKenna stopped all four Monarchs’ attempts, while Joudrey and Jonathan Marchessault scored for the Falcons, giving them the 4-3 shootout win.
Once again, Jones didn’t face an overly heavy workload. Though the Falcons carried the play in the first period, they only mustered up 13 shots, while registering six, three, and one over the next two periods and in overtime. Jones’ only real test came early in the game on a mad scramble in front of his net. With the Olympics winding down, Jones will return to LA before Sunday’s game, meaning Saturday will possibly be his last start with the team, as he retakes his place as the backup to Jonathan Quick.
“Yeah, I mean I’m not going to look at it like that. I don’t think, nothing is set in stone. My time here has been awesome. It’s a great organization. These are pretty important years your development, those first few years pro. It’s been great for me, I got a great opportunity so I’m happy with everything,” Jones reflected on Saturday possibly being his last start in his Monarchs career.
The ever-improving Shore had another strong game on Friday. Though it would seem the puck is following him wherever he goes, most of that is due to Shore being positioned exactly where he needs to be. On the night, he forced turnovers, clogged up the lane, and set himself up in great position to create offense. Solid in nearly all aspects of the game, the biggest knock on Shore is his desire to constantly pass the puck. Possessing a very quick and accurate shot, the young center could benefit from firing the puck more, instead of passing as much as he does.
In his debut with the team, Fraser displayed exactly what made him an NHLer over the past half-decade. Playing a hard working, no nonsense game, he won faceoffs and battled along the boards. At times, he also dropped into the soft spots in the Falcon’s defensive coverage, setting himself up for scoring opportunities. Though his line, flanked by Steve Qualier and Andy Andreoff, didn’t score, they were a constant presence on the forecheck and created energy for the rest of the team.
Finishing the night with two assists, Erixon was among the better performers for Springfield. Showing a sound defensive game, Erixon positioned himself well and effectively shut down the Monarch’s offensive attack. Erixon plays a simple game, opting to make the smart plays instead of the flashy ones, which led to his second assist on the evening. Instead of trying to do too much with the puck, Erixon wisely threw a wrist shot at the net, which was deflected home for a goal.
The Monarchs are back in action on Saturday, February 22, as division rival Portland Pirates come to town.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Brian O’Neill – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Nick Deslauriers – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
Andy Andreoff – Colin Fraser – Steve Quailer
Hunter Bishop – Ian O’Connor – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Follow @AndyTonge1 for more Monarchs news and notes.