The fans in Manchester on Friday night were in for a treat, as their hometown Monarchs battled in an exciting, offense-filled game with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. If there was a star of the contest, it was center Jordan Weal, who not only scored four points, but capped off the night with a highlight-reel goal as his team won 6-3.
Weal started the scoring in the first period after intercepting a poor pass from the Penguins’ Taylor Chorney. When attempting a pass to his defensive partner, Chorney threw the puck through the middle of the ice in front of the net, where Weal intercepted the pass and beat former Monarchs’ goalie Jeff Zatkoff.
Midway through the first period, Manchester’s lead was extended to two with a strike from Brian O’Neill. Winning a battle for a loose puck, Zach O’Brien utilized a fancy spin move to backhand a pass to O’Neill on the back door, who easily tapped home the puck for his 19th goal of the season.
Three minutes later, Wilkes-Barre got on the board when Scott Harrington netted his first of the season. Driving down the right boards, Carter Rowney attempted a pass into the slot, hitting the stick of Jayson Megna, but finding its way to Harrison at the point. Stepping into a shot, Harrison beat goalie JF Berube inside the far post, making it a 2-1 game.
Late in the opening stanza, Colin Miller would continue his tremendous season, adding yet another power play goal. When the puck found the defender on the point, he made no mistake, blasting an incredibly hard slap shot top shelf behind Zatkoff. The Monarchs’ lead was pushed to 3-1, which they would carry into the first intermission.
In the middle period, captain Vincent LoVerde would score his seventh of the season on the power play, extending the scoring gap to three goals. Working the puck from the left corner to the left circle, the Monarchs shifted the Penguins’ defenses’ attention away from the Miami alumni, who got the puck in the high slot, where he wristed a shot to the back of the net.
Chorney would make up for his ghastly mistake earlier in the game by once again reducing the lead to two, adding one to the scoreboard late in the period with the man advantage. The defenseman received a pass on the blue line and took a slap shot, which likely should have been stopped by Berube.
As the clock ticked down towards the second intermission, it appeared the home team would find themselves up 4-2. Instead, a goal with 21 seconds left would push their lead to three. Right off a faceoff win by Nic Dowd, Andrew Bodnarchuk would step into a shot, which was deflected by Justin Auger and went past Zatkoff.
Early in the final period, Wilkes-Barre would once again make it a game, as Dominik Uher would make the score 5-3. Once again driving down the wing, Rowney would throw a puck at the net, hitting a Monarchs’ defenders’ skate and redirecting onto Uher’s stick, who buried one behind Berube. The assist was Rowney’s third of the night, as the forward was credited for helping on all three of his team’s goals.
With one goal and two assists already, the night could have ended and Weal would have earned one of the three stars of the game. Instead, Weal pulled of an incredible move to dangle his way past a Penguins’ defenseman before using his slick hands to beat Zatkoff five hole. The highlight reel goal capped off an incredible individual performance and ensured his team’s 6-3 win.
The highlight reel goal from Weal comes around 5:19 of the video below:
On the season, Weal’s play has been up and down. At times, Weal does like he did on Friday and absolutely dominates. He can single-handedly change the outcome of the game with the puck on his stick. Other times, Weal is less visible and struggles to contribute. During his rookie season, Weal has said that a lack of confidence hindered his performance. After finishing in the top 10 in points last year, one would expect Weal to play confident, game in and game out, but that hasn’t been the case.
“You definitely get down on yourself [at times], but that’s why you’ve got a team to back you up. When you’re going through tough stretches, there’s always guys saying ‘Stick with it, stick with it. It’s going to come.’ That really helps. It’s just one of those things where if you keep doing the right things things, it’s going to eventually start going your way,” said Weal.
Weal seemed to be a point of emphasis for the Penguins, as their big bodies went after the diminutive speedster all night. Multiple times, Weal ate big hits, and even dealt with an opposing player throwing punches at him after one of said hits. Despite their attempts to eliminate Weal via physical play, the forward persevered and didn’t allow it to get him off his game.
“[Weal] can’t match up physically against that type of play. So, how do you counteract that? Speed, quickness, [and] his ability to see the ice. For him to fight back, without physically doing it, you hurt him the best way you can – with your skill. He was able to do that,” outlined coach Mike Stothers on how Weal fought through the physical play.
The two teams will meet for a rematch on Saturday before the Monarchs close out their weekend with a game versus Hartford on Sunday.
Line combinations and defensive pairings on Friday 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 Gravel
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