After the Manchester Monarchs and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fought in an exciting, action packed battle on Friday night, spectators in Manchester were likely let down by the rematch played on Saturday afternoon. Though the physical elements remained in the matinee game, the Monarchs struggled to create anything, ultimately being shutout 3-0.
The Penguins started the action with a late first period goal off of a turnover by Jordan Weal. Under pressure in his left defensive corner, Weal threw a pass to the middle of the ice, where Matia Marcantuoni intercepted, spun, and shot the puck behind goalie Patrik Bartosak.
In the second, Conor Sheary pushed his team’s lead to two thanks to a funny bounce off the boards. When a shot rang around the boards and hit a stanchion, the puck redirected to the front of the net. Expecting the puck to wrap around to his right, Bartosak slid in anticipation. Despite attempting to slide back to his left, Sheary poked the puck past Bartosak for the goal.
Midway through the third period, Wilkes-Barre added their final goal of the game on yet another turnover from Weal. When Weal was unable to handle a pass at the offensive blue line, Tom Kuhnhackl turned on the jets, won the race to the loose puck, and scored a shorthanded goal.
A minute later, the Monarchs were awarded a penalty shot after Scott Harrington closed his hand on the puck in the crease. Confusion ensued, as coach Mike Stothers attempted to let Weal take the shot despite not being on the ice when the penalty occurred. The referees sorted out the issue, forcing a player who was on the ice to shoot. Ultimately, Sean Backman took the attempt and wristed a simple wrist shot on net, with no sort of deception whatsoever. The shot was stopped by goalie Matt Murray, who closed the door the rest of the way.
For his fourth straight game, the Penguins’ Murray recorded a shutout in net. A goalie with tremendous size, Murray stayed big and square in his net all night. Though he wasn’t challenged much, he played well and has continued to play great hockey during his rookie professional season.
If there was one bright spot for the Monarchs, it was in the net opposite of Murray, as Bartosak played a great game. A very agile goalie, Bartosak made multiple big saves with his pads while moving laterally. The first and third goals were the result of poor turnovers by his teammates, while the middle strike was Bartosak being too anxious to make the play and not staying patient.
Friday, Weal put forth his most dominant effort of the year. On Saturday, Weal struggled, as his two turnovers ended up being costly. In the offensive zone, Weal didn’t generate much all night, as his team was held off of the scorecard.
Manchester has been missing a key player, as David Van der Gulik has missed both games this weekend after suffering an injury recently. The forward has been a stabilizing presence on whatever line he plays on, being utilized in all situations.
It has been a disappointing season for Scott Sabourin, to say the least. His points-per-game pace is down roughly 33%, while his impact on the game has rarely been felt. After an impressive training camp in LA to start the 2013-14 season, Sabourin has done nothing to back up his play, struggling to stay relevant in the organization.
The Monarchs wrap up their weekend with a game versus the Hartford Wolf Pack on Sunday.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Saturday were as follows:
Zach O’Brien – Jordan Weal – Brian O’Neill
Michael Mersch – Mike Richards – Sean Backman
Andrew Crescenzi – Nic Dowd – Justin Auger
Paul Bissonnette – Ryan Horvat – Scott Sabourin
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Jeff Schultz – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Kevin Raine
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