When playing your third game in three days, a good start is crucial. If you find yourself trailing late in the game, heavy legs and lack of energy may inhibit a comeback. After games on Friday and Saturday, the Manchester Monarchs got off to a rocky start on Sunday, including a parade to the penalty box that gave the visiting Worcester Sharks three power plays within the first 10 minutes.
Worcester would make the Monarchs pay for their early penalties by converting on two of their first three power plays. The Sharks started the scoring 5:57 into the tilt when Matt Taormina beat goalie Patrik Bartosak with a shot. Moving the puck from low to high, Bryan Lerg found Taormina on the point, who one-timed a hard shot top shelf. Bartosak barely responded to the shot, indicating he was likely screened and did not see the shot as it made its way to the net.
Minutes later, Chris Tierney would get his first of two goals and pushed the Sharks lead to 2-0. A battle for the puck behind the net saw Worcester’s Daniil Tarasov backhand a pass to Tierney behind the net, who used the same technique as Tarasov to bury the biscuit.
At even strength, the Monarchs controlled possession in the opening 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the team could not find a way to beat goalie JP Anderson and struggled to kill off the penalties they took, heading to the locker room trailing by two.
Early in the second, things would not get better for the Monarchs, who allowed a goal just over a minute into the middle frame. The team sent a puck up the boards on a clearing attempt, when Taylor Doherty stepped into a shot at the blue line and found the back of the net.
Midway through the period, Andrew Crescenzi rejuvenated the hometown crowd as well as his team by scoring a shorthanded goal. Driving down the right wing, the lanky forward made a power move towards the net and attempted to tuck the puck far side around Anderson. The Worcester netminder got a piece of the attempt, but not enough to keep it out of the net.
Tierney’s second goal of the game came late in the second, once again putting his team in the lead by three scores. Entering the offensive zone in a two-on-two, Tierney carried the puck along the right boards. In the process of entering the zone, his linemate broke his stick, leaving the San Jose Sharks prospect in a one-on-two situation. Cutting towards the middle of the ice, Tierney fired a heavy shot across his body from the top of the circles and beating Bartosak for the 4-1 advantage.
Before heading to intermission, Manchester would once again cut the deficit to two when Ryan Horvat collected his first professional goal. Similar to Tierney’s first of the game, a pass from behind the net found Horvat in the slot, who turned his back to Anderson and backhanded a shot in the net.
During the final 20 minutes of regulation, both teams traded goals that were initially waved off by the officials. First, Worcester took a slap shot from the red line that bounced on net, off the post, and beat Bartosak. Fortunately for the Czech netminder, a Sharks player was offsides and the goal was disallowed.
Late in the third, Manchester had a goal of their own that was ruled no goal before being overturned after video review. Driving the net, Justin Auger collected a pass and made a strong move to wrap the puck around Anderson. When the goalie was on his back, down and out on the play, a Sharks player pushed the net off just after Kenton Miller pushed the puck over the redline.
Despite a late surge, the Monarchs were unable to complete the comeback, falling to 4-3 and losing to Worcester for the third time in the team’s last four games.
After a terrific performance on Saturday, Bartosak struggled in his second start in back-t0-back days. Three of the four goals allowed were from high in the offensive zone. Though he was screened on at least one of them, perimeter shots should not find the back of the net as often as they did on Sunday. What’s most troubling was the disallowed goal, as the initial shot came from just inside the red line.
On the contrary, Derek Forbort continues to have a tremendous season on the back end. One of the biggest issues during the North Dakota alumni’s development over the past four years was a lack of assertive play. The Kings development staff, as well as the willingness from Forbort, has seen the six-foot-four defenseman play a more in-your-face game. Perhaps the biggest compliment on Forbort’s development is that he seems to get better, day in and day out. His steady progress is a very encouraging sign for an LA Kings team who may need defensive help in the coming years.
Rookie defenseman Kevin Raine continues to have an up-and-down season, which is to be expected in any young player’s career. Raine has found himself near the bottom of the depth chart along with Nick Ebert, as Kevin Gravel seems to have an inside edge on the two for the final spot defensively. When playing, Raine is capable of throwing devastating hits and creating offense with a heavy shot. Defensively, there is still work to be done, but the tools Raine have are very attractive going forward.
Paul Bissonnette, who picked up an assist on Horvat’s tally, now has three in the last three games. While those familiar with the man known as Biz Nasty think of him as a tough guy known for his petulance, the former Coyote has played admirably in a fourth line role. Though his future is unclear at the moment, Bissonnette is proving doubters wrong slowly but surely by showing he can do more in the game than just fight.
If you’ve missed either of our first two installments of our top prospects series, check the links below before the top five prospects are revealed.
The Monarchs return to action on Friday when traveling to Providence to take on the Bruins.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:
Andrew Crescenzi – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
David Van der Gulik – Nic Dowd – Max Kitsyn
Michael Mersch – Kenton Miller – Justin Auger
Josh Gratton – Ryan Horvat – Paul Bissonnette
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Derek Forbort – Colin Miller
Kevin Gravel – Kevin Raine
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