Throughout his hockey career, there has been one constant in Mike Richards’ career – winning. At every level, Richards has won championships and been a part of winning teams. After two Stanley Cup victories with the Kings, Richards was waived and assigned to the Manchester Monarchs. It was only fitting that his debut with the team was a victory, as the Monarchs beat division rivals Portland Pirates 3-1.
Veteran forward David Van der Gulik opened the scoring early in the first period, cleaning up a rebound from a Justin Auger shot. After Jordan Weal poked a puck free in the offensive zone, Auger collected it and drove towards the slot. A shot across his body was stopped by Pirates’ netminder Louis Domingue, but Van der Gulik tapped home the rebound as he fell to the ice.
Midway through the opening period, Portland knotted the game up at one when Darian Dziurzynski beat JF Berube five-hole. After Derek Forbort lost a foot race for the puck, Alex Bolduc backhanded a pass towards the middle of the ice, where Dziurzynski one-timed a shot home for his ninth goal of the season.
An uneventful second period saw neither team light the lamp, and the game entered the third period in a stalemate.
With 10 minutes left in regulation, Kevin Raine would break the tie and once again put the hometown Monarchs in the lead. After Josh Gratton stopped upon entry into the offensive zone, the winger found Raine skating with speed towards the net. From the high slot, Raine released a quick wrister that went off the right post and in.
Van der Gulik would seal the deal for his team by scoring his second goal of the game minutes later. After Richards was whistled for a hooking penalty, Van der Gulik forced a turnover and went in on a breakaway shorthanded, forcing Domingue to make the first move and sliding the puck around the goaltender.
Berube, starting in only his third game of the 2015 calendar year, was rarely tested. The one puck that got through him was one he likely would like back, as the shot didn’t come with great velocity, as it simply slipped through his pads. Nevertheless, Berube has continued to do what is asked of him and pick up victories for his team.
Having one of his better games as of late was Auger. Cooling off after a red-hot start, Auger is going through the ebbs and flows of his first professional hockey season. What he does well, he does extremely well. On multiple occasions, he used his size to protect the puck and create scoring opportunities, including on the play that lead to the first goal of the game. In terms of his development toward being an NHL player, there are plenty of good signs for the Guelph Storm alum.
By his own accord, Richards’ first game with the team wasn’t the best. Now, this isn’t to say that the center played poorly, but one would likely expect a better game from someone with as much talent and experience as Richards. At times, he fought the puck. Though, later in the game, the former Kitchener Ranger did have two quality scoring chances. All in all, Richards played 19:28 and won more faceoffs than he lost.
“I think [Richards] did okay. It’s a tough situation for him. He’s coming in here [to] new teammates [and] a new league. It’s not quite the caliber he’s been accustomed to,” Monarchs head coach Mike Stothers spoke on Richards’ debut. “I thought he did very well. I liked that line of Richards, O’Neill, and Backman. I’m not going to say that line’s going to stay the same. I might try Weal on that line with Richards and O’Neill, so there’s a lot of different ways we can work it.”
After missing an extended period of time with an undisclosed injury, Scott Sabourin returned to the lineup recently. On the season, Sabourin has two goals and seven assists for nine points. He was held pointless on Friday.
Nic Dowd was held out of the contest due to an illness.
Also returning recently were Berube and defenseman Jeff Schultz, who spent time in Los Angeles with the Kings.
If you missed it, Colin Miller won the contests for hardest shot and fastest skater at the AHL All-Star game. Miller shattered the AHL record with a 105.5 MPH slap shot.
Before the game, the Monarchs held a press conference to officially announce that the Kings’ AHL affiliate will move to Ontario, a story MayorsManor broke some time ago and has tracked ever since. Also announced was that the Monarchs signed a five year extension on their lease, as the team will spend at least the next six seasons as the Kings’ ECHL affiliate. Ticket prices are expected to drop for season ticket holders who renew their seats for next season.
The Monarchs return to action on Wednesday, February 4 as Albany comes to town.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Brian O’Neill – Mike Richards – Sean Backman
David Van der Gulik – Jordan Weal – Justin Auger
Michael Mersch – Andrew Crescenzi – Scott Sabourin
Josh Gratton – Ryan Horvat – Kevin Raine
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Kevin Gravel
Note to webmasters/reporters: When recapping news or interviews from this site please remember to include a link to www.MayorsManor.com