After winning their games on Friday and Saturday, the Monarchs came into Sunday’s home contest with the Portland Pirates looking for a clean sweep on the weekend. A 3-1 victory would give them six out of six points, winning all three games they played.
Playing each other 12 times on the year, games between the teams can often be very spirited, as it was on Sunday. An entertaining first period saw neither team score, but was filled with plenty of physical action. The hometown team controlled possession and entered the intermission with a 13-5 shot lead.
The Monarchs failed to carry their momentum over to the middle frame, as Portland dominated the possession, only allowing one shot through the first 13 minutes. Goalie JF Berube came up with a handful of strong saves when the Pirates’ attack was most threatening.
Finally, with just under three minutes to play in the period, the Monarchs would jump out to a 1-0 lead. Carrying the puck over the blue line with speed, Sean Backman forced the defender to give him space. Right in the slot, Backman released a high velocity slap shot top shelf.
Minutes later, Justin Auger scored yet another late period goal, extending the lead to two. Right off of a faceoff, the winger dug out the loose puck and fired from inside the faceoff circle to the back of the net.
The team was fortunate to find themselves leading after two, as Portland carried the play for the majority of the second. When they got their opportunities late in the period, they buried them, and set themselves up in a good position for two points heading into the third.
Midway through the third period, Portland found a way to crack Berube. A centering pass from the left boards was perfectly deflected to the top of the net by Jordan Martinook.
Seconds after the puck dropped following the Pirates’ goal, the team got a chance to even the game up, but Berube came up big, getting just enough of a shot on a breakaway to keep the puck out of the net.
With just a minute left in regulation, the Monarchs iced the game. Auger found a loose puck in the high slot, was given ample time and space, and spun, shooting a wrist shot inside the post for a 3-1 lead.
Berube had yet another solid outing in net. In the second period, the netminder came up with a big save off his left arm to keep the score tied at zero. Throughout the night, Berube moved well laterally, squared up to shooters, and cut off the angles.
Before the game, Mike Richards, who was still in Los Angeles undergoing fitness testing, was recalled by the Kings. In 16 games, Richards scored three goals, while adding 11 assists for a total of 14 points. His name was on the clearing day roster for the Monarchs, meaning he would be eligible to play for the team during the AHL playoffs, but regardless of the Kings’ fate, Richards has likely spent his last game in the minors. The Monarchs compiled a 10-5-1 record with Richards in the lineup.
Auger has continued his terrific rookie season, scoring both the game-winning and insurance goals. The big bodied winger has done wonders in his first professional year to ensure he stays relevant in a talented prospect pool.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:
Justin Auger – Jordan Weal – Brian O’Neill
Michael Mersch – Nic Dowd – Sean Backman
David Van der Gulik – Zach O’Brien – Scott Sabourin
Josh Gratton – Ryan Horvat – Paul Bissonnette
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Nick Ebert
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