After a confidence boosting 5-2 win in their home opener over the Portland Pirates on Friday, the Manchester Monarchs were likely feeling good heading into Saturday’s match-up with the Providence Bruins. Once the teams stepped on the ice, the hometown Monarchs were knocked down a peg after a 5-0 drubbing by their division rivals.
The Bruins would score a goal early and late in the first period, carrying a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Alexander Khokhlachev would open the game up with his third goal of the game just under two minutes into regulation. Collecting a pass in the left circle from defenseman Chris Breen, 18 year old David Pastrnak would throw a shot on net. With little traffic in front of him, the puck bounced off Monarchs’ goaltender Patrik Bartosak’s pad and right onto Khokhlachev’s stick for an easy tap-in from the slot.
Pastrnak would pick up his second assist of the period with just 32 seconds before the buzzer, as Craig Cunningham scored what would be his first of three goals on the night. With the puck on his stick in the slot, the Czech forward dangled around two Monarchs defenders before making a short pass to Cunningham, who went far post and in.
In the second period, Pastrnak intercepted a breakout pass in the Monarchs’ zone and found Khokhlachev in all alone for his second goal of the game. The Russian forward was in the slot alone as Bartosak went for a poke-check, exposing his five-hole for Khokhlachev to slide the puck home.
Around six minutes later, the Bruins lead would be extended to 4-0 on a tick-tack-toe goal on the rush. Carrying the puck in the right side of the zone, Matt Lindblad threw the puck across the ice to Ryan Spooner, who found Cunningham alone in the slot as he drove towards the net. With Bartosak biting on the pass to Spooner, Cunningham had a wide open target for his second tally of the game.
Cunningham would complete the hat-trick with just over six minutes to play. A Jeff Schultz breakout pass landed perfectly on the tape of Spooner, who quickly transitioned on the attack and found Cunningham with a pass on a two-on-one, who beat Bartosak with a wrist shot.
Shortly after allowing his fifth goal on 19 shots, Bartosak was replaced with Friday’s starter, JF Berube. The Monarchs were unable to muster up any offense and thus shut out by the final score of 5-0.
While Khokhlachev and Cunningham were named two of the games three stars, Pastrnak helped drive the Bruins offense greatly. Showing tremendous vision and offensive prowess, Pastrnak was a threat all night, collecting three helpers by the time the game was all said and done. With nine points in only seven games at the young age of 18, Pastrnak is showing why the Boston Bruins made him their first round pick in this past year’s NHL Entry Draft.
In net opposite of Bartosak and Berube was another Bruins first round pick, Malcolm Subban. The younger brother of Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban, the Bruins netminder was solid for 60 minutes en route to his first shutout of the season. Though his rebound control definitely could use work, there is no denying the raw ability of the Belleville Bulls alumni. Subban moved lateral with the speed and agility similar to that of LA Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.
Starting his second game of the year, Bartosak surely did not play the way he wanted. Though he wasn’t great by any means, he was hardly the only problem. You cannot win a game without goal support and his team failed to provide any offense with him in the net. Furthermore, the rather strong defensive unit of the Monarchs showed a few kinks in their armor, as the Bruins tended to find plenty of space in front of the Czech goalie.
“There’s 20 of us, right? It’s all of us. It’s not just one guy. It’s not just me. It’s all of us. You can’t really blame yourself for everything, but like I said, I wasn’t as sharp as I would [have] loved to be, and I need to get better. [We have] just got to get ready for the next one,” a somber Bartosak stated when asked if he felt disappointed in his game on Saturday.
Losing handily to a division rival can be an eye opener, especially to a team who has plenty of fresh faces in their lineup.
“I think it’s a good wake up call. They’re a good team. They have a lot of good players, [and] they play a good system. It’s a good wake up call for us. We have a lot of young guys, so hopefully we all can learn from this as a team, and build on something this week in practice, and take it into the games next weekend,” diagnosed veteran assistant captain Brian O’Neill.
The Monarchs return to action on Halloween, October 31, with a home game versus the Hershey Bears.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Saturday were as follows:
Brian O’Neill – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Michael Mersch – Nick Shore – Justin Auger
David Van Der Gulik – Nic Dowd – Scott Sabourin
Josh Gratton – Andrew Crescenzi – Zach O’Brien
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Nick Ebert
Kevin Raine – Vincent LoVerde
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