AHL: Monarchs Lose In Closing Seconds Of Game 3

Weal Jordan Manchester by Blake Gumprecht

Through the first two games of the AHL’s Eastern Conference Quarter Finals, the Manchester Monarchs thoroughly beat down the opposing Portland Pirates. Winning by scores of 5-2 and 6-2, it seemed as if the first place team in the league was on their way to sweeping their division rivals. However, the Monarchs found out the hard way that you must play a full 60 minutes, as a Pirates goal with 2.9 seconds left in regulation buried the team in their quest for a quick 3-0 series win.

Portland opened the scoring 14:32 into the first period. After receiving a pass from his defensive partner, Klas Dahlbeck took a slap shot, which was deflected in the slot by Phil Lane, beating Monarchs goalie JF Berube.

Manchester would equalize with a goal late in the opening frame. Starting in net after Mike McKenna had two horrendous starts in the series, Louis Domingue shot the puck over the glass, whistled for a delay of game call and giving the Monarchs a two-man advantage. After Colin Miller fanned on a shot from the point, the puck found its way to Michael Mersch in front of the net, who put it in the back of the net.

Entering the zone on an odd-man rush, Sean Backman looked off the open man trailing in Kevin Gravel, opting to keep the puck and shoot it himself. Domingue made the save, but left a rebound for Jordan Weal to bury from the slot.

Later in the period, Portland would draw even at two. An initial shot from high on the right side of the offensive zone bounced off Berube’s stick, into the slot to his right, where Eric Selleck sat waiting, striking home the puck.

For the second straight game, the Monarchs struggled in the second period. After a good first period where they outshot Portland 17-9, the Monarchs were outplayed for most of the period. However, the period could have been much worse on Sunday night, as Weal went down in his defensive zone and was unable to move until the trainer came out and attended to him. Favoring his left knee, Weal opted to stay on the bench and stretch out the knee, coming out for his next shift, much to the chagrin of the multitude of Monarchs fans who made their way up for the game.

An evenly fought, fast paced third period seemed destined to head to an overtime period, as neither team could score for a majority of the period. Then, Portland found a way to ice the game with 2.9 seconds left in regulation. Brandon Gormley, who threw a disgusting hit from behind on Brian O’Neill earlier in the game, made a pass from the offensive corner to the front of the net, where Francis Wathier beat Weal out and scored on Berube, icing a 3-2 victory for his team.

While Berube has made several big saves in the first two games, there has also been a pressing issue in his game. There have been far too many goals scored on shots from the blue line through the first three contests. Berube needs to find a way to come up big for his team, especially after the team has scored 11 goals for him in the first two games.

Up front, Ryan Horvat had a rather rough outing. In one particular instance, he was caught chasing for the entire duration of his shift while on a penalty kill. The youngster was a -3 rating on the night, as his line in general played a sub par game.

It has been an incredible pleasure to watch Weal play throughout this series so far. Without a doubt, Weal has been the best player for either team in the series. He completely carries the pace of play, and has been an offensive threat on every shift. Unfortunately, his linemates on Sunday, Backman and Zach O’Brien, did not play well, as neither helped Weal much in the offensive zone.

On the subject of line combos, the trio of Michael Mersch, Nick Shore, and O’Neill have played lights out hockey. Mersch’s ability to create space has given plenty of room for Shore and O’Neill to work, creating scoring chances, while Mersch parks himself in front of the net to bury loose pucks.

Missing on Sunday were Paul Bissonnette and Andrew Crescenzi. The former was banged up recently and unable to play. Crescenzi was suspended for Sunday’s game for his cheap shot on Darian Dziurzynski, who himself was unfit to compete. The two Monarchs forwards, when paired with Josh Gratton, have made for a terrific line. Having two of them out was a clear downgrade for coach Mike Stothers.

How the Monarchs respond to this loss will be huge. Losing in the manner they did is undoubtedly demoralizing. While they still may have lost the game in over time, they never got the chance to get there. One would not suspect a team with a strong leadership group to let this loss affect them, but it has to have taken a toll on at least a few players.

Leading 2-1 in the series, the Monarchs still have two chances to close out the series, with the next game coming Thursday up in Portland. With a few days of rest, and Crescenzi available to play, the team will likely dress a better roster than what saw the ice on Sunday.

Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:

FORWARDS

Michael Mersch – Nick Shore – Brian O’Neill

Zach O’Brien – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman

Adrian Kempe – Nic Dowd – Justin Auger

Josh Gratton – Ryan Horvat – Kevin Raine

DEFENSE

Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde

Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller

Derek Forbort – Kevin Gravel

GOALTENDERS

JF Berube

Patrik Bartosak

RELATED CONTENT:

AHL: Shore Adds 3 Assists, Monarchs Take 2-0 Series Lead

Catching Up With Kings Top Prospect Valentin Zykov

AHL: Jordan Weal Makes Statement for Monarchs in Game 1

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Comments

  1. Great write up.. could visulize all you said.
    TY

  2. Why were Brodz or Zykov not an option?

    Gratton – Brodz – Zykov would be a much better line than icing Horvat and Raine.

    • Andy Tonge says:

      Brodzinski will likely draw in sooner than Zykov, simply because he has been here longer to learn the systems and practice with the team.

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