It isn’t often the Manchester Monarchs find themselves down in a game early. Known as a team that often scores first, there was no doubt they were in for a tough game against the St. John’s IceCaps when they found themselves down 2-0 early in the game. After a grueling comeback, the team eventually fell 4-3 in overtime.
St. John’s opened the game with a goal under five minutes into regulation. With Kevin Raine in the penalty box, a Julien Brouillette point shot was redirected in front of a screened JF Berube, beating the goalie for the 1-0 lead. Austen Brassard was credited with his fourth goal of the year.
Three minutes later, Eric O’Dell netted a goal to extend his team’s lead to two. After Brenden Kichton razzled and dazzled the Manchester crowd along the blue line, he dished off to Keaton Ellerby, whose shot from the left half wall was blocked from reaching Berube. O’Dell, set up in the slot, spun and threw the loose puck into the empty net.
Late in the period, Andrew Bodnarchuk got his Monarchs within one, making it a 2-1 game. Jordan Weal protected the puck in the offensive zone long enough for his team’s defensive unite to change personnel. As the fresh bodies entered the offensive zone, the puck found its way from below the goal line to the slot, where Bodnarchuk and Zach O’Brien both swung at it, with the former making contact and getting credit for his fourth of the year.
Manchester would eventually tie the game at two late in the middle period. With a two man advantage, a passing sequence saw the puck move from Weal to Mike Richards to Colin Miller, who laid into a shot that was ultimately redirected by Michael Mersch.
Having fought back to erase a two goal deficit, the Monarchs looked poised to head to overtime after both teams failed to score for most of the third period. Brouillette had other ideas, as he scored with a clean, hard wrist shot from the point after his team won an offensive zone faceoff with the man advantage.
Down a goal and with time ticking away, hope slowly dwindled for the Monarchs. With under five minutes left in regulation, David Van der Gulik threw an unassuming shot on net, hitting goalie Connor Hellebuyck’s pad and stopping in the crease for Brian O’Neill to bury the rebound.
Tied at three, the teams needed an overtime period to determine a winner. After moving to the three-on-three part of the period, Patrice Cormier turned on the jets and faked a move to the forehand before sliding the puck home on his backhand. The goal gave his team the 4-3 win and a much needed two points.
After Cormier scored, Berube snapped his stick on the post, threw what was left of it on the ice, and skated off the ice.
“[Expletive]. I hate to lose,” Berube said emphatically when asked to explain his emotions at the end of the game. “Guys battle hard, and I wanted to get those two points for my teammates.”
Head coach Mike Stothers was less than pleased with Berube’s actions.
“I’m not big on reactions. We don’t promote that – we don’t teach that. We remain calm, cool, and collected all the time,” said Stothers on his goalie’s actions.
Despite not finding the score sheet, Justin Auger flashed a tremendous amount of skill at times on Friday. One play in particular saw the six-foot-seven forward dangle his way into the offensive zone and nearly score a highlight reel goal that would have been replayed for years to come if successful. That wasn’t the only instance, as Auger showed he is more than just a big body and capable of using his hands to create offense.
In net opposite Berube, Hellebuyck was phenomenal. Stopping 43 of 46 shots faced, the Winnipeg Jets prospect showed why he is well-regarded around the league. The highlight of his game is undoubtedly how easy he makes it look. Hellebuyck didn’t scramble, remained in control, and backstopped his team to victory when they were outplayed.
A scary play unfolded late in the game, as Van der Gulik was penalized in the third for kneeing. The hit was similar to the one Andrew Crescenzi was suspended two games for recently. Fortunately, Kichton, the player he hit, and Van der Gulik both avoided serious injury. It wouldn’t be out of the question to see the veteran forward forced to miss a few games for his hit.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday for a rematch at 7.
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 – Andrew Crescenzi – Scott Sabourin
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Kevin Gravel – Kevin Raine
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