As Los Angeles prepared for its first outdoor hockey game, thousands of miles away in Manchester they paid tribute to their parent clunb. Saturday was the Monarchs’ annual Kings Night, which saw the team wear the cult classic Burger King jerseys originally donned during the 1995-96 season.
With the Portland Pirates in town, division rivals of the Monarchs, the home team knew they were in for a tough game.
Manchester started the scoring just over eight minutes into the game. Picking up a loose puck deep in the offensive corner, center Jordan Weal worked down low before dishing to Brian O’Neill in front of the net. O’Neill one-touch passed the puck over to Sean Backman, who went to his backhand to beat the Pirates’ Louis Domingue.
Tanner Pearson, who has played in eight NHL games on the season, extended the lead to two just over half way through the second period. Andy Andreoff collected a pass and let a shot go from the top of the right circle. Pearson, battling in front of the net, lifted a defender’s stick, stole the puck, spun, and shot for his 14th goal of the year.
After thoroughly dictating the play for 40 minutes, the Monarchs took their foot off the pedal and allowed Portland back into the game in the third period. The ever dangerous Andy Miele got his team on the board 9:22 into the period, as he deflected home a Brandon Gormley point shot. Miele, an undrafted free agent out of Miami University, was one of the Pirates’ top players on the evening.
Portland tied the game at two thanks to a strong effort by winger Ethan Werek. Carrying the puck in the zone along the left wall, Werek made a move towards the net, lost control of the puck, regained control of it, and wrapped it around the net and behind JF Berube.
Neither team was able to tally a decisive goal, sending both teams to overtime. In the dying seconds of the game, Linden Vey’s seventh goal of the year gave Manchester the decisive victory and the extra point that goes with it. After a slew of quality chances that the team was unable to convert on, Vey took a pass along the left boards, skated to the middle of the slot, and wristed one behind Domingue. Nick Deslauriers, credited for keeping the puck in the zone and feeding Vey, picked up an assist, while defenseman Vincent LoVerde was awarded the second helper.
On the night, Pearson was arguably the best player for either side. He never stopped moving his feet, was in on the forecheck, threw his body around, played solid defensively, and scored a goal. As indicated by his two call ups on the season, Pearson appears to be on the cusp of being ready for full time NHL duty.
Of all the prospects the Kings have in Manchester, none may be more intriguing than Derek Forbort. After three years playing college hockey for the University of North Dakota, Forbort transitioned to the professional game this past offseason. During the year, he’s had ups and downs, something to expect from a rookie blueliner.
Saturday’s game was one of Forbort’s better games. He was engaged physically, won battled, worked hard, and was solid with the puck. Though he didn’t touch the ice during overtime, neither did Colin Miller, as the Monarchs opted only to use more experienced defenseman in the extra time. While Forbort still has work to do to reach the expectations coming with being a first round pick, Saturday was a solid performance that he will look to replicate.
“I played well. I thought I settled in after the first, and started making my plays. I thought I was tough defensively to play against, so I thought I had a good game,” spoke Forbort on his game Saturday night.
After a nearly month stretch of solid play and contributions, rookie winger Scott Sabourin has cooled off considerably. Now playing in a fourth line role, Sabourin has seen his ice time cut from earlier in the season. All night, Sabourin battled himself to handle the puck, losing control of it and turning it over multiple times.
For the Pirates, Domingue impressed in goal. Showing off a good glove hand, the netminder kept his team in the game through the first two periods, as they were out-shot 29-15 in that time. Positionally, Domingue can stand to challenge shooters more, instead of opting to play deep in his crease. He also seems fairly aggressive in playing the puck, something that almost led to turnovers more than once. Overall, Domingue played an extremely solid game and earned himself third star honors for it.
After the game, coach Mark Morris announced that Mathias Niederberger would get his first AHL start on Sunday, as the team travels to Worcester to take on the Sharks.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Saturday were as follows:
Andy Andreoff – Linden Vey – Tanner Pearson
Brian O’Neill – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
AJ Gale – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
Hunter Bishop – Andrew Crescenzi – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Andrew Campbell
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Colin Miller
Nick Deslauriers – Vincent LoVerde
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