Hockey is a game of ebbs and flows.
After a disappointing start to the season, Scott Sabourin has hit his stride. Building off his previous game, in which the winger scored and added an assist, Sabourin tallied two more goals Saturday night to lead his team to victory.
As division rivals, the Monarchs and Bruins face each other 12 times this season, a fact the latter team likely wishes it could avoid. Coming into Manchester, Providence had lost the previous four meetings on the year.
In this game, midway through the first period, Andrew Bodnarchuk was in perfect position to intercept Craig Cunningham’s drop pass attempt. The blueliner dished the puck over to Jordan Weal, whose quick stretch pass sent Brandon Kozun in all alone, where he would score five-hole on Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban.
As center Andy Andreoff was tied up after an offensive zone faceoff, winger Sean Backman moved in to retrieve the loose puck and attempted a shot. Backman’s wrister hit off of a foot and redirected right to the waiting Sabourin. Standing in the high slot, Sabourin let a wicked wrister go that scored top shelf to extend the lead to two.
Providence found the scoring sheet late in the second period when a Tommy Cross stretch pass allowed Nick Johnson to split the defense pair of Andrew Campbell and Chris Huxley. Johnson skated straight in on Manchester goalie JF Berube and lifted his shot into the top left corner of the net. Nobody on Manchester picked up Johnson in the neutral zone and the defenders left a gap in their coverage, allowing Johnson all the room he needed to score his ninth of the year.
Just 2:52 into the final frame, the Bruins tied the game when Jared Knight fed Seth Griffith a perfect pass right in front of the net for the goal. While Knight and Colin Miller battled down low, Griffith drove the net and was left wide open right on the doorstep for the one-timer.
With two of their previous four meetings going to a shootout, it seemed inevitable that Saturday’s game would face the same fate. As the clock ticked below eight minutes to play, a Bruins defender attempted a routine wrap around the boards behind his net. With a little help from the skates of the referee, Backman was able to intercept the pass and throw a backhander to the slot, where Sabourin was waiting to one-time it home. His fifth goal of the year and fourth point in two days gave the Monarchs the lead and the victory.
Although he didn’t score, it’s worth giving some attention to the efforts of Jordan Weal. A dynamic playmaker, Weal is the definition of a pass first player and his chemistry with Kozun make the duo a threat every time they touch the ice.
Making his second start in as many days, Berube played a solid game. Though he didn’t come up with many game breaking saves, he made the ones asked of him. The former QMJHL netminder had plenty of help from the players in front of him, as the team blocked a large number of shots throughout the night. Berube also showed some of the feistiness he’s known for, using both his glove and blocker to muck it up with the Bruins players standing in front of him late in the third.
“I wanted to defend my house a little bit just to make sure I get some respect. You know, it’s part of the game. Just staying focused, I don’t mind the rough plays,” responded Berube, when asked about his late game aggression.
At the other end of the rink, Subban showed why he was recently a first round draft pick of the Boston Bruins. Had it not been for his efforts, the Monarchs would have handily won the game. Relying mostly on his athletic ability, Subban routinely made tremendous saves and was rewarded with the third star of the game in a losing effort. Though he could use work on rebound control, you can never count him out of a play until the puck is either covered or in the net.
Rarely can a player join a new team in a new league and not look out of place initially. Cameron Burt is proving to be one of the rare exceptions. Though held off the scoresheet in his second appearance for the Monarchs, he once again had an impressive outing. Burt saw ice-time on the penalty kill and had a strong presence in all aspects of the game.
“He’s a smart, smart hockey player. I think the more ice you give him, the more you’re going to see [that],” said coach Morris of the recent signee. “I’m encouraged. I think he’s very dependable, very reliable, he’s strong on the puck, and he makes just the easy play. Those guys are hard to find when they’re dialed in like that. I like his game.”
Facing three games in three days, Derek Forbort and Max Kitsyn were given the night off. Both are expected to return to the lineup Sunday, as the Monarchs travel to Worcester for their second meeting of the weekend against the Sharks. Coach Morris also confirmed that Berube would be in net for the third day in a row.
Saturday’s win increases the Monarch’s record to 13-3-1-2, good enough for 29 points and first place in the Eastern Conference. The team is undefeated in their last six home games.
Line combinations and defensive pairings were as follows:
Nick Deslauriers – Jordan Weal – Brandon Kozun
Scott Sabourin – Andy Andreoff – Sean Backman
Robbie Czarnick – Mike Ullrich – Hunter Bishop
A.J. Gale – Cameron Burt – Zach O’Brien
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Campbell – Chris Huxley
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
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