Injuries can easily ravage a team’s season, but don’t tell that to the Manchester Monarchs. Despite continual carnage that the Hockey Gods have bestowed upon the Los Angeles Kings’ primary affiliate over the past few months, coach Mark Morris and crew have continually found ways to win.
Still missing several regular players from their lineup, they did receive one bit of good news on Sunday, as NHL prospect Robbie Czarnik was back, after dislocating a finger during a game last weekend.
At the other end of the ice, Bridgeport came into the game without top prospect Ryan Strome, who was recently called up to the New York Islanders. However, the Sound Tigers received a boost of sorts when long-time Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard was sent to the team earlier in the week.
Strong starts have been a key cog in the Monarchs play. Their ability to strike early has set the tempo for many games and Sunday was no different. Just 2:29 into the opening frame, Tanner Pearson corralled a rebound off of an Andrew Bodnarchuk point shot, skated behind the net, and banked the puck in off of Bridgeport goalie Anders Nilsson. Picking up the second assist was Bodnarchuk’s regular defense partner, Vincent LoVerde. A lengthy delay followed the tally, as it was the annual Teddy Bear Toss game in Manchester.
Both teams began to settle in after a wide open first twenty minutes, with each club registering a meager five shots a piece. Another quick goal from Pearson extended the Monarchs lead to two in the middle frame. After LoVerde dished the puck to Cameron Burt, the former Ontario Reign skater let a shot go from near the point, which was deflected home by Pearson. Burt’s wrister was low, but off the ice, and Pearson, the LA Kings first round pick in 2012, was able to deflect it top-shelf for his second goal of the game.
Just moments after, a scary scene ensued, as Bridgeport’s Mike Cornell threw a vicious elbow at former Sound Tiger forward Sean Backman. The blow left Backman a bloody mess, which forced the winger to get stitches and not return to the game. Showing displeasure with the play, Andy Andreoff stepped in to fight Cornell and landed several good blows before the linesman intervened. For his work, Cornell received five minutes for fighting, five minutes for a match penalty for a hit to the head, and a game misconduct.
Backman later tweeted the following:
— Sean Backman (@SBacks16) December 16, 2013
Bridgeport would go to find the scoreboard just 1:42 into the the third period. Bouchard received a pass behind the Monarchs net and spotted Sean Wiles streaking to the net, feeding him for his first goal of the year. Wiles one-timer was hard and beat JF Berube cleanly, bringing the score to 2-1.
Pearson was able to finish off the hat trick with an empty net goal late in the game. He scooped up a loose puck just inside his own zone, sped over the red line, and backhanded one into the open net. His tenth goal of the year also gave him his first professional hat trick.
“It feels pretty good. [I’ve been] having a tough couple games, pucks weren’t really going my way but I was playing well so I knew if I kept working hard, something would go in eventually,” remarked Pearson, when asked about scoring three times on Sunday.
Starting his 15th straight game in net for the team – and his fourth straight weekend of playing three games in three days – Berube had another solid outing. Not faced with many high quality scoring chances, he made all the saves required of him and led the team to victory. One of the more impressive facets of Berube’s game is his conditioning. Playing a high volume of games in a short time period is tough on any player, especially a goalie. After playing in Adirondak on Saturday, the team bus didn’t arrive back home until 4:30 in the morning. With Sunday’s start time schedule for 3 PM, Morris gave him the option to have today off. He didn’t take it.
“I feel pretty good. [I’m] not tired at all. Three in threes, it’s all about mental [fatigue]. Physically, we train during summer for those games. I feel really good and I’m ready for 15 more,” Berube said of his heavy work load.
He’s now allowed only one goal in three of his last four starts.
After returning from a foot injury last weekend, Nick Shore has begun to hit his stride. While the former University of Denver Pioneer is boasting assists in three straight games, Shore’s strength in the game came defensively. All night, he was clogging up the passing lane and forcing turnovers. Known as a two-way center, Shore has showed great ability in all three zones as of late. Though he is usually good taking draws, his poor faceoff numbers in Adirondak forced Morris to move Shore to the wing for Sunday’s affair.
While he has received little fanfare, LoVerde has continued to impress all year. Even with a myriad of changes on defense for the Monarchs through their first 29 games, LoVerde and Bodnarchuk have remained a constant tandem. Solid and steady in his own zone, LoVerde has consistently shown the ability to read plays, jump in on offense and contribute when appropriate. His overall play could put the Chicago native well on his way to earning an NHL contract with the Kings (or another club), as he is currently signed to an AHL-only deal.
Notes: Taking in the game between the Monarchs and Tigers was Rick Dudley, Montreal Canadiens’ Assistant General Manager.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:
Nick Deslauriers – Jordan Weal – Brandon Kozun
Tanner Pearson – Cameron Burt – Nick Shore
Hunter Bishop – Andy Andreoff – Sean Backman
AJ Gale – Robbie Czarnik – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
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