With only two more games until the team goes on a brief holiday break, the Manchester Monarchs came into Friday’s game looking to continue their domination of division rival Worcester Sharks. In their previous three meetings this season, Manchester has gone 3-0 while scoring a combined 12 goals and only allowing four. They would extend their winning streak over the San Jose Sharks primary affiliate with a 4-1 win on home ice.
Captain Vincent LoVerde would open the scoring in the game with a power play goal just over five minutes into the contest. With the puck on the goal line, Nick Shore’s attempt to dish to the slot failed and the puck bounced right back to the center. Worcester goalie Troy Grosenick, reacting to the pass, was caught out of position, as Shore rang a hard shot off the post behind him from in close. Sneaking in from the right point, LoVerde found the rebound and wristed it home for the 1-0 lead.
Eight minutes later, Manchester would once again capitalize with the man advantage. As Shore and Brian O’Neill passed the puck back-and-forth trying to find an opening, Andy Andreoff set himself up in the high slot. O’Neill, near the goal line, dished the puck to Andreoff for a perfectly placed one-timer.
Late in the opening period, LoVerde would tally his second of the game, while Andreoff and O’Neill picked up their second and third points of the game respectively. Andreoff collected the puck behind the Worcester net and fed LoVerde as he crashed the net, with the defenseman’s one-timer once again beating Grosenick.
In the closing minutes of the second period, Worcester would get on the board with a goal from Jeremy Langlois. Working their way up ice, a pass from Jimmy Bonneau was mishandled at the Monarchs blue line, allowing Langlois to get behind LoVerde and beat Patrik Bartosak on the ice as he moved laterally.
With two minutes left in the middle frame and having given up the last goal in the game, Manchester got a key shot block from Nic Dowd, stopping an Evan Trupp attempt from getting past Bartosak. Had the puck found the back of the net, momentum would have assuredly shifted to Worcester and the outcome of the game may have been different. Instead, Andreoff buried his second goal of the game in the dying seconds of the period. Protecting the puck along the boards, O’Neill threw a cross-ice pass to Andreoff for his second one-time goal, making it a 4-1 game.
Manchester was able to close out the game with a 4-1 victory. Bartosak picked up the victory, stopping 27 of 28 shots he faced, and improved his record to 5-2-0-0 on the season. The Czech was not forced to face too many grade-A scoring chances, though he did make some key saves during the contest. Having hit a heavy stretch of games, Bartosak made a start to give JF Berube the well deserved night off.
After being assigned to the team on a conditioning stint, Andreoff now returns to the LA Kings. During his two week stint in Manchester, Andreoff registered 10 points in seven games, including five goals in his last two contests.
On Wednesday in Portland, O’Neill picked up five assists in the Monarchs 8-2 win. Friday, he registered four more helpers, for a total of nine over a two game stretch. In his last four games, the winger has 12 points, which have helped him take over the lead for most points in the AHL, with 34 in 27 games. Linemate Shore is following closely behind, sitting third in the league just four points back.
Last season, O’Neill stepped up to score a plethora of goals over the last half of the season. With Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson called up to the Kings, and Brandon Kozun and Nick Deslauriers traded, O’Neill was relied upon to put the puck in the net. Come this season, the Yale graduate has transitioned into being more of a setup man, leading the AHL in assists.
“It’s tough. I’ve passed up some shots I probably shouldn’t have passed up this year. It’s tough when [Shore] has done a really good job of shooting the puck this year, and he’s got a hot stick, so you’re trying to look for him, and he’s obviously trying to look for me. I just think it just so happens that the first part of this year, I’ve been more of a passer, but that can change. Sometimes I’ve got to have more of a shooter mentality,” O’Neill said of his transition of roles on the team.
Registering two goals on Friday, LoVerde showed that he has some offense in his game. On both occasions, the Monarchs captain showed great game sense, leaving the point to drive the net at opportune times. Not one to sacrifice defense for offense, both moves were calculated and paid off. If there was one word used to describe the Miami University alum’s game, it would be consistent. Though his potential at the NHL level may not be high, you can always count on LoVerde to play at the same level as the night before. Like his partner Andrew Bodnarchuk, he relies on playing a solid all-around game, though neither is particularly great in any individual skill.
Missing his fourth game in a row since being injured on the last shift of the game in Portland a week prior, Colin Miller seems to be not far off from a return. The defenseman may miss the team’s game Saturday, but isn’t expected to miss any time past the contest versus Providence. With Jeff Schultz called up to LA, the Monarchs’ are now missing their entire second defensive pair.
The Monarchs are back in action Saturday, as the Providence Bruins come to town. The game will be the last before the team breaks for the holidays.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Andy Andreoff – Nick Shore – Brian O’Neill
Michael Mersch – Nic Dowd – Sean Backman
David Van der Gulik – Jordan Weal – Justin Auger
Josh Gratton – Zach O’Brien – Paul Bissonnette
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Kevin Gravel – Kevin Raine
Derek Forbort – Nick Ebert
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