It wasn’t pretty, but the Manchester Monarchs closed out another three games in three days weekend with a win. Facing a division rival for the second straight night, the Monarchs were tasked with facing the Worcester Sharks and Troy Grosenick, a goalie who had performed well in previous meetings.
As mentioned previously, Martin Jones was on his way to returning to Los Angeles, meaning Mathias Niederberger would get the start and the team signed Zach Guercia, an assistant equipment manager, to man the bench in case anything happened to their German born starter.
Back to back slow starts had coach Mark Morris concerned, and Sunday’s game saw the same, only with a bit of luck. Manchester would open up the scoring on the powerplay on what would end up being their only shot in the period. Working the puck throughout the offensive zone, Andy Andreoff would send a backhand pass to Nick Deslauriers, whose shot would be tipped home by Colin Fraser. The goal gave Fraser goals in back to back games after not scoring since March 9, 2013.
Worcester tied the game at one thanks to a Dan DaSilva goal near the midway mark of the period. After the Monarchs failed to clear the zone, Adam Comrie would give a short pass to Dylan DeMelo at the point, whose wrister handcuffed Niederberger, allowing DaSilva an easy tap in. The point shot by DeMelo was a routine save that was flubbed by the Monarchs netminder and should have been stopped fairly easily.
Late in the second period, the Monarchs would regain the lead thanks to the first of two goals on the night by Nick Shore. Starting the play, Derek Forbort’s long stretch pass sent Steve Quailer in on a two-on-one with Shore. Skating along the left boards, Quailer slapped a pass over to Shore, whose forehand-backhand move beat Grosenick for the 2-1 lead.
The Sharks would tie the game in the third period off of another goal Niederberger would likely want back. After winning the battle down low, Lane Scheidl spun and shot a low shot from the left half wall. The puck would rebound off of Niederberger’s pad and right onto the stick of Brodie Reid, who easily tapped home his eighth goal of the year. A secondary assist was given to Marek Viedensky.
Shore would pick up his second goal of the evening with just 1:07 left in regulation. Battling for the puck in the neutral zone, Ian O’Connor would control the puck and throw a nice backhand pass to Shore, springing the center in on a two-on-one with Zach O’Brien. Shore’s initial shot was stopped by Grosenick, but the young center knocked home his own rebound before sliding into the Sharks goalie and the net behind him.
Icing the game, Brian O’Neill would score his 13th of the year into an empty net. With the Sharks goalie pulled, Andreoff would pressure the opposing defenseman at his own blue line, forcing a turnover. The forward would send a pass ahead to O’Neill, who easily skated the puck in to the yawning net, giving his team the 4-2 victory.
Though Niederberger stopped 30 shots on his way to his first AHL victory, the game was less than a stellar performance for the former Barrie Colt. Both goals allowed were misplayed and should have likely been prevented. Throughout the night, Niederberger appeared slow to react to shots. His rebound control was the main issue. Playing a seemingly blocking style, most pucks that hit him left a rebound. A goalie’s goal is to either smother every puck or force the rebounds into the corners, something the Monarchs goalie struggled with greatly. He did come up with one rather nice save, sliding post to post to take away a surefire goal, but overall he will need to be better to succeed at the AHL level.
On the season, one of the real bright spots has been Shore. Coming into the year, he was penciled in as the number three center on the team and has only gotten better with each passing game. Now centering the second line, Shore’s offense has turned a corner and brought a whole new dimension to his game. Shore had no problem playing a defensive role at the beginning of the year, but now he’s serving a new role on the team, putting up points in the absence of some offensively gifted players. The even-keeled center never allows himself to get too high or low during a game, keeping his emotions in check and playing smart, sound hockey.
After coming over in a trade for Robbie Czarnik on February 6, Steve Quailer has shown glimpses of being a solid player for his new team. While most players of his stature struggle with skating, Quailer moves fairly quickly up and down the ice. He’s shown himself to be effective on the forecheck and possesses a strong wrist shot. On Shore’s first goal tonight, Quailer set himself up in the perfect position to receive a stretch pass from Forbort and then drew the defenseman towards him, leaving Shore in alone to beat the Sharks goalie.
“It’s different. You know, it’s been good. Overall, it’s a good thing. I’m really happy about it. It’s just getting on the same page as everyone all the time. I want to be out there in the big minutes, so that’s what I got to work for,” Quailer commented on his adjustment to his new team.
With Martin Jones heading back to LA, JF Berube will likely be sent down as early as Monday, the first day he can officially be returned to the Monarchs.
The Monarchs will travel to Norfolk to take on the Admirals on February 28 and March 1 at 7:30 PM and 7:15 PM respectively.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:
Nick Deslauriers – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Zach O’Brien – Nick Shore – Scott Sabourin
Andy Andreoff – Colin Fraser – Brian O’Neill
Ian O’Connor – Andrew Crescenzi – Steve Quailer
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
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