During the 2013-14 season, the Manchester Monarchs were the fifth highest scoring team in the AHL. Through their 76 game regular season, they were only shut out twice. Friday’s game versus the Hershey Bears marked the second straight game the team failed to light the lamp, as they lost 4-0 to the Washington Capitals primary affiliate.
A fast paced and relatively uneventful first period ended with both teams held off the scoreboard.
Midway through the second period, Hershey would tally their first of three goals in an eight minute stretch, as Dane Byers recorded his third goal of the season. With the puck behind Monarchs’ goalie JF Berube, a battle ensued that saw Kris Newbury come away with the puck amongst four bodies. Newbury turned and found Byers wide open in the slot, feeding him for a one-timer that beat Berube on his glove side. With the assist, Newbury tallied his 500th career AHL point.
Four minutes later, Northern California born Casey Wellman extended the lead to 2-0 with his 6th of the year. On the powerplay, the Bears worked the puck from the right boards to the top of the left offensive circle, where Tomas Kundratek’s slap pass was deflected top shelf by Wellman.
In the closing seconds of the period, University of Michigan alum Chris Brown scored his first goal of the season, as Wellman picked up his third point of the night, having registered an assist on the opening goal. After collecting the puck from Wellman along the left boards, Brown skated towards the net and beat Berube with a clean wrist shot.
Despite their best efforts in the third period, Manchester failed to beat goalie Philipp Grubauer, who stopped all 26 shots on the evening. An empty net goal by Steve Oleksy sealed the Monarchs’ fate, as Hershey netted their fourth and final goal of the game.
Manchester outshot Hershey 26-22 and had six man advantages to the Bears two. Coming off a 5-0 loss to Providence, the Monarchs were guilty of trying to be too fancy with the puck. Often times, players looked for an extra pass, instead of opting to shoot and create scoring opportunities. Grubauer’s 26 saves, while impressive, were limited to very few grade A scoring chances.
“You’re not going to win any games if you’re not going to score any goals. We’ve got to concentrate more on putting pucks to the net. Again, when there’s second opportunities, be there, be ready. Now, you’ve gone a couple games without scoring, so your natural tendency is to…you’re trying so hard to make a good play, that now you’re trying to make the perfect play or the perfect goal. I really feel that we need to start scoring some ugly ones before we start scoring the pretty ones. We’ll continue to drive that home,” head coach Mike Stothers said post game.
Part of Manchester’s problem come from the struggles they have generating offense with the man advantage. Last season, the team was near the bottom of the league on the power play until the Brayden McNabb brought a true weapon to the point. With McNabb in LA, the team is back to lacking a quarterback to run the offensive zone or a player with a truly heavy shot to keep the opposing team honest when down a man. If they want to have the success they had last year, the Monarchs must find a way to begin generating offensive while up a man.
One addition that may help in this area is the recent signing to a professional tryout of NHL veteran Jamie McBain. The former Carolina Hurricane and Buffalo Sabres defenseman is an offensive talent who can provide the spark on the back end Manchester desperately needs. Only practicing with the team the morning of his first game, McBain showed why he was a formerly highly touted offensive prospect, showing great skills with the puck on his stick. He efficiently moved the puck and had the vision to find the open man in the offensive zone.
Though he is only signed to a tryout contract currently, our sources indicate he can earn an NHL contract dependent on his play, as the organization likes his puck moving ability, right handed shot, and NHL experience. Should Slava Voynov miss a substantial amount of time, McBain could be an option going forward should the Kings feel they need another puck mover on their back end. While the Manchester defense does have some depth to it, the team lacks an NHL ready offensive-defenseman.
Friday’s game marked the first of a three game weekend for the Monarchs. Stothers did not indicate who may start Saturday, as he does not like to name his starter until game day, but Patrik Bartosak is likely to start one of the next two games as to limit Berube’s work load. The former QMJHL goalie may be in net again Saturday, as division rival St. John’s is in town, while Bartosak may be in for Hershey’s second game in Manchester on Sunday.
Justin Auger – Jordan Weal – Zach O’Brien
Michael Mersch – Nick Shore – Sean Backman
Brian O’Neill – Nic Dowd – Scott Sabourin
Ryan Horvat – Andrew Crescenzi – Josh Gratton
Vincent LoVerde – Kevin Raine
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Jamie McBain
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com