During any given hockey season, injuries are inevitable. Unfortunately for AHL teams, they must not only deal with injuries to their own players, but with the loss of players called up when their NHL affiliate sees players get hurt. The Manchester Monarchs know this all too well, as they took the ice Saturday with a shorthanded squad. Despite the roster changes, head coach Mike Stothers’ team found a way to squeak out a victory in overtime.
Late in the first period, Manchester would open the scoring from an unexpected line. Paul Bissonnette got his stick on a puck as a Providence Bruins defender tried to clear it from his defensive zone, and the tough forward was able to keep his team in the attacking zone. Dishing the puck into the corner to Ryan Horvat, Bissonnette drove the net and quickly received a pass from his center. Bissonnette’s initial shot was stopped, but Josh Gratton banged home the rebound from the side of the net.
Shortly after the scoring, Patrik Bartosak would make his first of many huge saves, as he stopped a shot from a Providence player as he was in all alone on a breakaway.
In the second period, Bartosak once again came up big. After a two-on-zero rush from the Bruins hit the post behind the Czech netminder, Bartosak came back with a huge glove save minutes later.
Providence would find a way to get one past Bartosak minutes later, as Brian Ferlin would step collect a pass in the slot and fire a heavy wrist shot glove side and in the back of the net, tying the game at one. Assists on the play were credited to Justin Florek and Andrew Cherniwchan.
After a third period saw neither team score, the game would go to an overtime period. Two and a half minutes into the extra session, Jordan Weal would send the hometown crowd happy, as he scored a power play goal to secure a 2-1 victory. Kevin Gravel dished to Weal down low, and the center carried the puck towards the net and beat Providence goalie Malcolm Subban low on the ice.
Despite the loss, Providence had more quality scoring chances than the Monarchs. Bartosak came up big time and time again to secure two points for his team, keeping them in first place in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. The goalie also benefited from four shots hitting the post behind him. His defenseman allowed him to see many shots, and he also reacted quickly and used superior save selection to only allow one puck to get behind him all night.
“Definitely really good. I’ve never been the backup goalie before, so it was harder for me to get used to it. Obviously, it’s nice to get to play, and good for JF getting the chance [to play for the Kings]. I’m really happy for the opportunity I [have],” Bartosak said on how it feels to get to start more games.
Bartosak got the start due to the fact that the team’s starter, JF Berube, was called up to the Kings before the game after Martin Jones went down with an injury. Though it isn’t known how severe Jones’ injury is, not having Berube will surely hurt the Monarchs. Having two quality goaltenders is a huge asset to any team, and with Berube and Bartosak, the Monarchs have that. If Jones’ injury is severe enough, the Kings may opt for an NHL backup with more experience and return Berube to Manchester, though only time will tell if that happens.
Before the overtime winner, Weal had a quiet game. With Nick Shore recently called up to the Kings as well, Weal will need to step up his game and fill the hole Shore left. Despite this, Weal once again showed that he is a clutch player who steps up when it matters the most. Time and time again, he has scored timely goals when his team desperately needs them. The bigger the moment, the better Weal plays.
Earlier in the season, Weal was the top forward on the list to be recalled to the Kings, but has obviously since been passed by Shore.
“No. Not at all. Hockey is hockey. Wherever you’re going to be, you’re going to play. Have some fun. Nick’s been playing great for us. He deserves that call up,” said Weal when asked if he was frustrated over not getting his chance in the NHL. “But, you never know what can happen. You just [have] to take it day by day, and play hockey. You get to play hockey for your living. It’s pretty awesome. You’ve got to put things in perspective.”
Brian O’Neill, who recently had his hand stepped on by a skate, and Zach O’Brien, banged up from the wear and tear of a professional hockey season, missed their third straight games. Scott Sabourin is also still out of the lineup for the team. Max Kitsyn, who was recalled from Ontario of the ECHL, was a healthy scratch, as Stothers opted to play players on tryout contracts over the Kings prospect.
To compensate for the lost players, the Monarchs signed forwards Kenton Miller and Adam Hughesman to PTOs, both of whom were in training camp with the team, and goaltender Joe Howe to a tryout as well.
Be sure to check out our midseason prospects rankings linked below to see which Monarchs made the cut.
The Monarchs return to action on Sunday to face the Worcester Sharks.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Saturday were as follows:
Andrew Crescenzi – Jordan Weal – Sean Backman
Adam Hughesman – Nic Dowd – David Van der Gulik
Michael Mersch – Kenton Miller – Justin Auger
Josh Gratton – Ryan Horvat – Paul Bissonnette
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Kevin Gravel – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Nick Ebert
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