After weeks of being plagued with injuries and losing players who were called up to the Los Angeles Kings, the Manchester Monarchs roster is finally seeing some familiar faces. Last week, the team welcomed back top winger Tanner Pearson and this weekend, Linden Vey returned.
With two-thirds of last year’s top line back in action, the Monarchs scored early and often en route to a 6-2 victory over their division rival Portland Pirates. The victory leaves Manchester up 3-1 in the VIP Cup, an annual series fought out between the two New England based teams.
As Manchester has made a habit of doing, the hometown team struck first and early, as Nick Shore buried his fourth of the year. Winger Brandon Kozun had possession of the puck in the slot but fanned on his shot, allowing Andy Andreoff to pick it up and fire it on net. A sprawling Mark Visentin was unable to track the puck as Shore tapped in the loose rubber for a rare Monarchs powerplay goal.
Just over half way through the opening frame, Brian O’Neill picked up his sixth goal of the year in his first game back from injury. The initial shot came in close to Visentin off the stick of Shore, hit the post, and bounced to O’Neill for the second tap in goal of the game. Andreoff picked up his second assist of the game on the play.
O’Neill was back at it six and a half minutes later, with Shore once again registering a point. The former University of Denver forward had the puck down low and found O’Neill, whose shot beat Visentin low and to the short side, extending the Monarchs lead to three.
Portland eventually got on the scoresheet, as Jordan Martinook tallied his fifth of the year for the visiting Pirates in the final minute of the first. Brandon McMillan started the scoring sequence with an innocent wrist shot, which handcuffed goalie JF Berube. As the puck lay loose in front of the net, Martinook buried the garbage to bring the score to 3-1. Picking up a secondary assist on the play was former Kings defenseman Randy Jones.
In the closing seconds of an eventful opening 20 minutes, O’Neill picked up his third point of the night, this time an assist. With the puck in the left offensive zone corner, the former Yale Bulldog spun and found Jordan Weal as he charged the net. Weal deked to his backhand and scored his seventh goal of the year to rebuild the Monarchs lead to three.
Allowing four goals on 14 shots, Visentin found himself on the bench for the start of the second period. Louis Domingue took over for the former first round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes. Unfortunately for Domingue, things would not get off to a better start with him in the cage. Just 2:28 into the middle period, Andreoff picked up his third point of the night and fifth goal of the year. O’Neill was once again involved, picking up his fourth point of the night, and Colin Miller also was credited with a helper on the play.
Towards the end of the period, frustration began to boil over, as nearly every stoppage in play was an open invitation for confrontation. Portland, playing visibly upset over the score, began to engage physically, which would carry over into the third and create for an exciting and physical final 20 minutes.
The Monarchs would score their sixth and final goal of the night early in the third during a powerplay, as Vey entered the zone and dished the puck to Pearson. Skating to the net on the left side of the zone, Pearson unleashed a rocket of a wrister that beat Domingue top shelf. Ian O’Connor picked up a secondary assist on Pearson’s 11th of the year.
Portland got their second goal of the evening off of a Brandon Gormley point shot, which was tipped home by Keven Veilleux. Daine Todd fed Gormley with a pass and thus earned himself an assist on the powerplay goal.
Still upset about a lopsided score, the Pirates continued to go after Monarchs skaters throughout the third period. Under two minutes to play in the game, Scott Sabourin and Darian Dziurzynski dropped the mitts and fought, which resulted in Sabourin working his left hand and ultimately winning the fight. A minute later, Nick Deslauriers and smooth skating Pirates defenseman Chris Summers duked it out in a more even affair, though once again the Monarchs skater got the nod in victory. All in all, the Pirates racked up 58 penalty minutes to the Monarchs 36.
Playing in his 16th straight start, Berube struggled early on. The French-Canadian fought the puck and was unable to cover shots cleanly. After the first, Berube began to settle into the game and fielded pucks cleaner than the opening 20 minutes. Manchester was able to limit Portland to few high quality scoring chances, thus making life easier for their netminder.
Injured for over a month with a broken hand, O’Neill’s return to the lineup was as good as anyone could ask for. A forward who is involved primarily on the forecheck, O’Neill showed an offensive flare in his game during a four point performance. Still sporting a cast, O’Neill showed no rust in his game whatsoever.
“I’ve been practicing for the past few weeks, so that’s helped with the conditioning and whatnot. When you play with two really good players, it obviously makes the comeback a lot easier. We had a lot of good pressure early, we got a couple of good bounces, and Shoresy and Andy I think might have won 90% of their draws tonight, so it obviously helps when you’re playing in the offensive zone a lot,” spoke O’Neill on his line’s big night.
After a struggle adjusting to his first year of professional hockey, Shore has begun to find his game. Last weekend, Shore exhibited the strong defensive game, which has made him a top-rated prospect by MayorsManor. Friday, Shore showed off his offensive game, creating plays and showing great vision to find his open linemates.
The third member of Manchester’s high scoring line, Andreoff, was involved all night too. Though Andreoff brings a distinctly different element to his game, he leads his team in penalty minutes and doesn’t shy away from physical play. If he’s unhappy with a hit, he’ll respond by returning a big hit of his own, dropping the gloves, or giving the opposing team an earful after the whistle. In a very physical game, Andreoff found himself in the middle of the action more times than not. Adding to his very physical and in-your-face game, the forward tallied three points for himself against the Pirates.
Manchester is back in action on Saturday, December 21, as they travel to Bridgeport to take on the Sound Tigers.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Tanner Pearson – Linden Vey – Brandon Kozun
Nick Deslauriers – Jordan Weal – Scott Sabourin
Andy Andreoff – Nick Shore – Brian O’Neill
AJ Gale – Ian O’Connor – Robbie Czarnik
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
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