With two decisive wins in their opening games of a best-of-five first round series with Portland, the Manchester Monarchs were likely thinking a sweep was possible. Their 5-2 victory in Game 1 was bettered when they downed the Pirates 6-2 in Game 2. However, when they left the comforts of home and traveled to Portland for Game 3, it was time to put the brooms away, as they fell 3-2. Now, the series will conclude with Game 4 in Portland on Thursday, and if needed, a Game 5 on Saturday – something the Monarchs would like to avoid, if possible.
As mentioned on the MayorsManor podcast previewing this series, a goaltending matchup between Portland’s Mike McKenna and Kings prospect J.F. Berube, looked to be an interesting one on paper. McKenna posted a .926 save percentage in the regular season, while Berube went 37-9-4 in the regular season for Manchester, along with a 2.18 GAA and .913 save %. Through three games, Berube has managed a 2.33 GAA and .879 save %.
Up front, Kings 2010 draft pick Jordan Weal has recorded two points in each game and leads the AHL in playoff scoring with six points. Has he taken his game to another level, at a time when the Kings have many decisions to make about Weal’s future with the organization (ed. note: he would need to clear waivers to return to the AHL next season, something that is highly unlikely – not to mention the uncertainty surrounding the future of veteran centers Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll in Los Angeles)?
In advance of Game 4, Monarchs coach Mike Stothers checked in with some mid-series thoughts…
On losing Game 3 and shaking it off going into Game 4:
“If it ends in regulation or it ends after three periods of overtime, it’s still a loss… You’re playing a good team, you move on; whether it’s in regulation or overtime… “
On Jordan Weal’s play in the series:
“He’s been pretty darn good for us all season long. Come playoff time, you need your good players to be real good, and he has been. He certainly hasn’t let off the throttle. If anything, maybe he has picked it up a notch. He’s been a factor in all three games and a force for us. We need that. That’s what your best players do, they step their games up.”
On if he’s satisfied with the Monarchs’ defensive efforts through three games:
“I thought we played well in all three games. From that aspect, it’s what you expect in the playoffs. It’s hard fought, there’s not a whole lot of [room on the] ice out there, there’s a lot of big hits, and it’s heavy hockey. That’s what you would expect, knowing our opponent as well as we do, since we played them a couple of times in the exhibition season and then 12 more times during regular season. Now, here we are in the playoffs. I think it’s been what we had expected from our opponent. I think we played well, and they played well. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the scores of the earlier games. They’ve been hard-fought and I don’t expect anything different [in Game 4].”
On if having guys like Andrew Crescenzi and Paul Bissonnette in the lineup for Games 1 and 2 helped create more offensive space than what they saw in Game 3:
“We feel that we played pretty hard as a team, so we’re not real worried about toughness. You have to play hard; there’s a big difference. There hasn’t been a fight in the series and I don’t really anticipate there being one. It’s just a matter of playing, competing, and battling. We have some guys who are in and out of the lineup – we’ve had Graton out, we’ve had Bissonnette out, we’ve had Horvat out. They’ve been in, they’ve been out. That’s the name of the game here in the playoffs. Guys get banged up, guys are healthy; they go in, they go out. As I said, I just look at it as, ‘you play hard, you play hungry.’ That’s the only way to play. I don’t think you can get into it trying to match-up for that toughness element. They just have to play, and they have to play hard.”
On if he’s satisfied with the play of goaltender J.F. Berube through three games:
“Yep. As I said earlier, I haven’t been disappointed in [either end], it’s been good.”
On the status of Jonny Brodzinski:
“He’s been hurt since he came to us, that’s why he hasn’t gotten in. I don’t know [if he’ll play soon]. He has to get healthy. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s still nursing the ankle.”
On if winning Game 4 is any more important than other wins, because you don’t want to allow the series to become tied and pushing it to a winner-take-all Game 5?
“I don’t know if you can say any game is more important than any other. It’s the first team to get to three [wins]. They’re all pretty important. I’d rather us just think about what we have to do, how we need to play. We’ve done a pretty good job of just keeping an even keel. We never get too excited when we win and we don’t get too down when we lose. It’s just another game coming up. We’ll prepare and we’ll be ready to play.”
RELATED CONTENT: For in-depth analysis of the series, be sure to check out the reports filed by our Manchester correspondent Andy Tonge here.
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