On Friday, Manchester suffered a 4-0 defeat to the hands of the Hershey Bears. While the team wasn’t as sharp as they’d like to be, they followed it up with a dominant performance versus division rival St. John’s. When Hershey rolled back in town for a Sunday afternoon rematch, the Monarchs were hungry for revenge – something they’d get in the way of a 3-1 victory.
Last season, one of the Monarchs biggest strengths was the ability to score an early goal. Sunday saw them rekindle that trend, as offensive dynamo Jordan Weal tallied his second of the season on a penalty shot. After collecting the puck in his defensive zone, Weal went coast-to-coast, blowing by teammates and opposing players alike, before he was interfered with before he could get a quality shot off. On the penalty shot, Weal weaved left and right slowly towards Philipp Grubauer before shooting low glove side for the goal.
Hershey would score its lone goal of the game eight minutes into the opening frame, as Kris Newbury was credited for his 6th goal of the season. A slow shot from the right side of the ice came at Monarchs’ goalie Patrik Bartosak, who attempted to poke the puck away before a Bears player crashing the net could take control of it. As he did so, Newbury got a piece of the puck and ramped it up Bartosak’s stick and into the back of the net.
In the second period, Nick Shore would put the home team back on top with his second goal of the year. Michael Mersch fed Shore the puck from the red line and Shore entered the offensive zone just ahead of a Hershey defender. Leaning right to protect the puck, Shore shot back to his left in the slot and beat Grubauer for the 2-1 lead.
Midway through the third period, Shore would pick up his second of the game on an incredible individual effort while short handed. Cutting through two defenders, Shore got a shot in close that was stopped by the Hershey netminder. Continuing to fight for the puck, Shore found his own rebound among a crowd of defenders and scored on a low angle shot.
Despite being out-shot 28-22 and only registering three shots in the final 20 minutes, Manchester held on for the victory, finishing their weekend with two wins and one loss.
While Shore prides himself on being a team player, his second goal of the evening was a credit to his own tenacity and hard work. He carried the puck into the offensive zone as his teammates were changing and should have had no chance to score on the play. Shore is a tremendous defensive player, who tends to play more as a setup man than a goal scorer in the offensive zone. At times, Shore passes the puck more than you’d like to see. He possesses a great shot, but fails to use it. Saturday was a clear example that Shore can score goals if he wants to.
“Well, I think any time you’re able to chip in and help the team, you’re going to be pretty excited about that. Like we said, we were pretty happy about the win tonight. It’s a good one to end the weekend on,” commented Shore on scoring two of the three goals for his team.
In net, Bartosak stopped 27 of 28 shots he faced. Towards the beginning of the game, he seemed to scramble more than necessary. As the game moved on, he settled into his crease and put up a great outing, including a big glove-save on a shorthanded breakaway to keep his team in the lead.
“I got a little bit calmer. I calmed it down a little in the second period. I was a little too excited at the start. I wanted to have that rebound game. I think as the game went on, I got a little calmer and played a little better,” Bartosak said on his performance.
Though his offensive numbers haven’t been great, Zach O’Brien has quietly contributed in any way possible for his team. After coming up from Ontario of the ECHL last year, he impressed enough people to earn a contract for this season and was invited to LA Kings training camp. During his junior career, O’Brien was known as a goal scorer, scoring 50 and 47 goals respectively in his last two seasons. This season, he has played in more of a defensive role for the team, while stepping up onto offensive lines when called upon. Last season, we pointed out Vincent LoVerde as a player who could play his way into an NHL contract, which he eventually did. O’Brien has the same opportunity, as he has shown he can do more than put the puck into the net.
David Van der Gulik, who returned to the team on Saturday after one game in the NHL, was banged up in the team’s win over the IceCaps and was unable to play on Sunday.
Andrew Bodnarchuk, who was injured during Kings training camp, is set to return to the ice this week. Though he says he is doubtful to play this upcoming weekend, he should be back the following week to provide a spark on the back end. When he comes back, he all but has a guaranteed spot in the lineup as an every day player. That will give the team 9 defenseman, meaning moves are likely to come in order to get everyone proper ice time.
Brian O’Neill – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Michael Mersch – Nick Shore – Justin Auger
Zach O’Brien – Nic Dowd – Scott Sabourin
Josh Gratton – Ryan Horvat – Kevin Raine
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Vincent LoVerde
Kevin Gravel – Jamie McBain
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