The Manchester Monarchs and Portland Pirates met Saturday and Sunday for their only two games of preseason. During the regular season, the teams will face off 12 times. If the preseason was any indication, the Pirates are going to have to study some game tape and figure out how to solve the Monarchs. Manchester won the first game 5-2 and the second 3-0 while dressing fewer than 18 skaters.
As the Los Angeles Kings are slowly sending players down to Manchester, the Monarchs found themselves in an interesting position where they just did not have enough healthy players to put 18 guys on the ice. They also had an excess of defenseman. Coach Mark Morris managed to make due with what he had and was impressed by how his players stepped up.
Returning defenseman Nick Deslauriers notched 4 of Manchester’s 5 goals on Saturday in his new preseason role as a forward. It’s not a role he is used to and it might have felt odd to him at times, but it worked out well for him. Being a big guy who plays a physical game, he was able to hit even more.
After the 5-2 win on Saturday afternoon, Manchester came into Sunday’s game looking for a repeat. Although they only put 16 skaters on the ice, it was hard to tell that they were not skating with a full lineup. They got things started off early to keep rolling. Just 54 seconds into the second preseason game, Manchester beat Pirates goalie Mike Lee. That goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference. But it would only take until the 3:13 mark for Manchester to score their first goal. Andrew Campbell scored his first of preseason with assists to Jordan Weal and Maxim Kitsyn.
It was the second time that the teams had met in as many days and it was immediately obvious from the game on Sunday. There were four penalties during the first period, including a brief 2-man advantage for Portland. In addition players were quick to hit and slow to stop pushing and shoving after the whistle blew. Despite the powerplay chances, the score remained 1-o in favor of the Monarchs after the first frame.
The second period started with Manchester finishing off the remainder of their powerplay, carried over from the first. The hitting continued in the second right where it had left off in the first. About five minutes into the period, Deslauriers delivered a huge hit on Kyle Hagel of the Pirates. Hagel seemed to crumple but immediately popped up and went after Deslauriers. Although he was not necessarily expecting the fight in that situation, it was something Deslauriers deals with a lot. As a big, physical player, he has to be willing to stand up for his hits. The two traded punches in a relatively even draw before separating and heading to the penalty boxes.
There was only one penalty, aside from the matching fighting majors, in the second. Manchester’s Scott Sabourin went off for holding. But once again, there was no score on the power play. Neither team was able to create as many scoring chances in the second. The teams ended the period with Manchester still leading 1-0.
During the third, Pirates goalie Mike Lee continued to make good saves and control the puck to keep his team in the game. At the 7:31 mark, the Monarchs went on the powerplay when Pirates’ Ethan Werek got a penalty for tripping. This time, Manchester was able to convert on the powerplay when Jordan Weal deflected a shot past Lee 43 seconds into the penalty. Sabourin and Brandon Kozun got the assists. Just 25 seconds later, the Monarchs went up 3-0 when Brian O’Neill beat Lee with an assist to Ian O’Connor.
That would be the final score as Monarchs goalie Martin Jones held strong. He made a number of good saves in the third and controlled the puck to keep from giving up rebounds. His shutout brought the preseason games to an end for the Monarchs and the Pirates.
The AHL season opens on Friday, October 4th with Manchester visiting the Springfield Falcons for their first game on Saturday, October 5th. Between now and then, the Monarchs coaching staff will have to make some decisions about who is going to stick around. They have already started the process by announcing that they released defensemen Matt Campanale and Jake Newton who both dressed for both preseason games. The LA Kings also announced that they have assigned forwards Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli, and Linden Vey to Manchester.