Finishing up yet another weekend with three games in three days, the Manchester Monarchs took the ice on Sunday looking to once again climb the rankings in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. Sitting in first place for most of the season, the team slipped down to third over the last few weeks. Having lost the night before in Portland, the Monarchs would once again find their winning ways, as goalie Patrik Bartosak lead the way with a shutout in a 2-0 victory.
Playing any team 12 times in a season is a recipe for bad blood, something we saw before the puck dropped to start the game. As the referee was getting ready to commence the contest, Nic Dowd took exception to the actions of a Worcester player, and the St. Cloud State alum cross-checked his opponent in the chest. This action was repeated by Dowd on his next faceoff as well.
Once the game got underway, the Monarchs wasted no time getting to work. After Worcester took two early penalties, the hometown team found themselves on a five-on-three advantage. Inside the right circle, Jordan Weal fed Mike Richards at the point, who found Brian O’Neill open on the back door and tossed the puck to the winger. O’Neill beat goalie Aaron Dell and gave his team the 1-0 lead.
A spirited first period saw nearly every whistle lead to scrums breaking out. While the Monarchs had the lone goal of the period, the team faced two scares, as both Dowd and Justin Auger went down to the ice and were slow to recover from separate incidents. Auger blocked a shot in his wrist/hand area, while Dowd caught a high stick to the face. Both returned to action and didn’t miss a shift.
In the action-packed second period, Bartosak made his best save of the game. With his team clinging to a one goal lead, the netminder stretched out and made a humongous right pad save while moving laterally.
Heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation with a one goal lead, Manchester looked for an insurance tally. They would find it in the form of Weal’s 14th of the year. As O’Neill flew down the wing, Weal followed behind and received a drop pass from his winger. The center took a shot from the right circle, which was blocked by Dell before ricocheting in off of Taylor Fedun.
The Monarchs were able to shut the door the rest of the way, as Bartosak stopped all 29 shots he faced as the team won 2-0.
In net, Bartosak played one of his better games of the year. While he wasn’t tested with a ton of high quality chances, his save in the second period ensured momentum didn’t sway in the favor of Worcester. The goalie appeared to be on top of his game from the opening puck drop until the final buzzer. His shutout was the first of the year and second as a professional.
“I don’t really care if it’s a 10-9 win or 1-0 game – a win is a win for us, and that’s all that matters to me right now,” said Bartosak on recording a shutout.
Dowd was in the middle of the action all night for the Monarchs. While he has played with an edge to his game for most of the season, Sunday seemed to be a bit more fire coming from the center. On top of his physical play, Dowd saved a goal, as he cleared a puck that trickled behind Bartosak early in the 3rd period when their team was still clinging to a one goal game.
“I just think [that] in order for myself to play well, I think I have to bring that jam. That’s how I was successful in college, and I think that needs to translate over to here,” said Dowd. “Whether it’s just playing hard, or getting in a fight, or whatever it is, whatever needs to be done, I think that’s what gets me to the level of playing well, and working hard. I just wanted to respond from last night.”
Jeff Schultz was held out of action on Sunday. In Saturday’s contest in Portland, Schultz took a high stick near the eye and was forced to leave the game early. Head coach Mike Stothers said Schultz hadn’t had the chance to be properly evaluated, but there was no chance the defender was going to play in Sunday’s game.
Also missing from action was veteran forward David Van der Gulik, who hurt his head in Friday’s game versus Hartford.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Sunday were as follows:
Michael Mersch – Mike Richards – Sean Backman
Zach O’Brien – Jordan Weal – Brian O’Neill
Ryan Horvat – Nic Dowd – Justin Auger
Josh Gratton – Andrew Crescenzi – Scott Sabourin
Derek Forbort – Nick Ebert
Kevin Gravel – Colin Miller
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
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