In professional hockey, more often than not, out-shooting your opponent is a good recipe for success. Throwing more pucks on net usually correlates to more scoring chances, and thus more goals. With that being said, the Manchester Monarchs seem to be a bit of an anomaly. On home ice this season, the team was 8-0 when out-shot by the visitors. A 5-2 drubbing of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers upped that record to 9-0.
A slow opening period of the game seemed destined to end scoreless until John Persson found a way to slide a puck behind Patrik Bartosak. The Swedish forward collected a pass from below the goal line and got the puck off his stick quickly, not allowing the Czech netminder to seal the ice off with his pads. The Sound Tigers carried the 1-0 lead with them as both teams headed to their respective locker rooms.
Aware of their slow start, the Monarchs came out firing on all cylinders to start the middle frame. The rewards of their efforts were seen early and often, Brian O’Neill scored the first of three goals for his team in the period. Setting himself up along the left half wall during a power play, O’Neill received a pass from Andrew Bodnarchuk, stopped, and fired a slap shot top shelf for his 15th tally of the year.
Near the midway point of the period, the hometown team would add another goal with the man advantage. As two Sound Tigers sat in the penalty box, a passing sequence saw the puck move from Mike Richards to Jordan Weal, who placed a perfect pass on the stick of Michael Mersch, redirecting the puck past David Leggio. Manchester would take a 2-1 lead and continue to build from there.
The red hot Weal would add one of his own minutes later, extending the lead to 3-1. With both teams having only four skaters on the ice, Weal took advantage of the extra room, using his speed to find a weak spot in the Bridgeport defense and wristing home a shot just inside the far post.
Up by two, the Monarchs had a brief lapse in defense early in the third period, allowing Kail Mouillierat to capitalize on being left alone in front of the net. When the former St. John’s IceCap received a pass from below the goal line, he placed his stick between his legs and flicked the puck top shelf, scoring an unbelievable goal that stunned the hometown crowd.
Two-and-a-half minutes later, the Monarchs would find their answer and once again go up by two. When Richards fed Bodnarchuk at the left point, the defenseman let go a high wrist shot, which was deflected in the slot by Sean Backman, changing direction and finding the back of the net.
Backman was not done there, as he took a pass to exit his defensive zone late in the game, gained the offensive blue line, and scored an empty net goal to seal the 5-2 victory.
In the closing minutes of the game, Scott Sabourin dropped the gloves and delivered a beating on Justin Courtnall. After a great training camp last year in LA, Sabourin has had his struggles in Manchester. This year, Sabourin had a sub par camp, a slow start to the year, and then missed an extended period of time with an injury. If there is one undeniable truth about Sabourin, it is that he has all the raw tools to become an NHL player. His development will take time, but if there is any staff in the NHL that can turn raw potential into quality players, it may just be the Kings.
It hasn’t been an easy rookie season for Bartosak in goal. At times, the Czech has struggled and the team has been trounced with him in net. In 17 appearances, he has six losses on record, while his counterpart JF Berube only has five in 32 games. An aspect many before him have struggled with is confidence, as most players find the jump from juniors or college to professionals a hard one to adjust to.
“You know what? I take it game by game. Like I said before, I battle for every opportunity I get, and when I get the chance to play, I think my confidence is where it needs to be. It’s just a matter of time for me to get ready to be a number one goalie, and once I’m ready, I think I’ll get the spot,” spoke Bartosak.
Perhaps even more impressive than the fact that the Monarchs won despite being out-shot is the fact that they picked up the two points with only 17 skaters. Schultz was once again out of the lineup due to injury, while Josh Gratton and Ryan Horvat were also unavailable for game action. Gratton was banged up in Friday’s game, while Horvat is currently not with the team as he deals with a personal matter. Andrew Crescenzi served the second of his two game suspension on Saturday.
The Monarchs next game comes this Monday, as their scheduled meeting with Providence was pushed back a day due to weather related issues.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday were as follows:
Brian O’Neill – Mike Richards – Sean Backman
David Van der Gulik – Jordan Weal – Zach O’Brien
Michael Mersch – Nic Dowd – Justin Auger
Paul Bissonnette – Scott Sabourin
Vincent LoVerde – Kevin Raine
Kevin Gravel – Colin Miller
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Nick Ebert
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