Looking at the box score of Sunday’s Monarchs’ victory, one might feel a sense of déjà vu. While for the second straight night the team beat the Norfolk Admirals 5-2, the game was much different than Saturday’s iteration.
One thing that wasn’t different from Saturday was Manchester scoring an early first period goal involving the pair of Jordan Weal and Zach O’Brien. After narrowly missing on a goal seconds earlier, O’Brien would covert the one-time feed from Weal, beating Norfolk netminder Ryan Faragher.
A second period power play goal would extend Manchester’s lead to 2-0. A shot from Michael Mersch would hit off Faragher’s pad and bounce right to center Nic Dowd’s stick. Dowd would bury the rebound, beating his former St. Cloud State teammate Faragher in the process.
Under a minute later, Norfolk would cut the lead to one, as Antoine Laganiere put home his fourth of the season. As his team buzzed around the Monarchs’ net, Laganiere was able to wrap the puck around Patrik Bartosak and into the net.
The Manchester lead would be extended to two goals, as now Weal and O’Brien switched roles from earlier in the game, with Weal scoring and O’Brien picking up an assist. Weal would carry the puck into the offensive zone and fire a wrist shot from the right side of the ice, going far side and in with perfect accuracy.
Norfolk would answer back once again, as William Karlsson would make it a 3-2 game with a power play goal of his own. Setting himself up high in the slot, Karlsson took a feed from Max Friberg and one-timed high past Bartosak.
In the final minute of the middle frame, an unlikely power play goal from Jeff Schultz would give his team back the two goal lead. After working the puck around the offensive zone with little success, Dowd fed Sean Backman, who made the smart decision to simply throw the puck at the net. The lanky defender crashed the net and found the loose puck, burying it for his third goal of the 2014-15 campaign.
During the third period, Manchester would seal their 5-2 victory with Brian O’Neill adding his 7th of the season. Nick Shore entered the zone on the right side of the ice, and spotted an open O’Neill trailing behind him near the point. Shore passed off to the Yale alumni, who blasted the puck past Faragher.
Despite the two teams not being division rivals, Sunday’s game featured the intensity only matched by matchups with the Portland Pirates. After almost every whistle, a scrum would ensue or words would be exchanged between players. Included in all of the raucous was Bartosak, who took exception to actions of Nic Kerdiles and sharing his opinion with the Ducks prospect.
“It was definitely my fault. I looked at the referee, and he wasn’t looking, so I gave [Kerdiles] a little tap. By a little tap, I mean a slash, and the guy obviously didn’t like it, so he turned around and started yapping at me. I’m the kind of person that if somebody starts yapping at me, I’ll go back at them, so we kept going back and forth for a while. I was going to punch him in the face, but you can’t do that after the whistle,” explained Bartosak of the situation.
Playing in his fifth game of the season, Bartosak played reasonably well. He made at least one key save, keeping his team ahead by one goal with a fine lateral save. At times, he scrambles a bit in his crease, but he tends to settle in as the game goes on. There is still work to do in round out his game as well. While he may have been expected to challenge JF Berube for the starting role at some point this season, early indications are that Berube’s starting job is safe for the time being.
From the get-go, it was not hard to predict Dowd scoring a goal in Sunday’s tilt. Dowd had the first high-quality scoring chance in the game and continued to build on that attempt as the game went on. By the end of the night, Dowd was successful in scoring on his old friend Faragher, while also contributing his usual solid defensive play.
Sunday was one of the rare occasions Manchester was out-shot by the opposing team. From the beginning of the season on, head coach Mike Stothers has praised having a shot mentality, and it has shown in big ways for his club. In the rematch versus Norfolk, not only were the Monarchs out-shot, but they only managed to throw 21 pucks on net. Despite this, the team found a way to score five goals.
“I don’t know if it was déjà vu – maybe the score yes, [but] the game wasn’t as good. That’s three games in three days for both teams. It’s a little bit sloppy. There’s some mental mistakes. There’s some fatigue,” diagnosed Stothers of how his team’s performance compared from Saturday to Sunday.
While the focus of the Monarchs’ offense have been on their top three centers of Shore, Dowd, and Weal, their fourth line center Andrew Crescenzi has found his way of contributing to the team’s success as well. After coming over in a trade from Toronto last season, Crescenzi struggled to adjust to the new system and team. A strong training camp has translated into improved play for the former Kitchener Ranger. He likely will not be productive offensively, but his faceoff ability, defensive prowess, and an added physical element to his game make him a solid fourth liner.
The Monarchs return to action on the road, as they travel to Portland to take on the Pirates.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Saturday were as follows:
Andy Andreoff – Nick Shore – Brian O’Neill
Michael Mersch – Nic Dowd – Sean Backman
Zach O’Brien – Jordan Weal – Justin Auger
Ryan Horvat – Andrew Crescenzi – Josh Gratton
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Kevin Gravel – Derek Forbort
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