The Manchester Monarchs came into last night’s game having taken a point in each of their games, with a record of 5-0-1-2. They are also already no stranger to extra time so far this season. But, last night they suffered their first loss in regulation so far this season and it came at the hands of the St. John’s IceCaps.
The game got off to a quick start on both sides. It was Manchester that would capitalize first. Tyler Toffoli skated into the zone, managed to evade a couple IceCaps players before passing across the front of the net to Linden Vey. Vey put it home for his second of the season at 4:09 of the first with assists to Toffoli and Derek Forbort. But the IceCaps were not willing to let that lead last. Down at the other end, Eric O’Dell dug the puck out of the corner and passed it off to Carl Klingberg. Klingberg beat Monarchs goalie Martin Jones just 39 seconds after Manchester’s goal to tie the game with assists to O’Dell and Kael Mouillierat.
Throughout the first, the IceCaps continued to control the puck. It was also a physical period with both teams getting some good hits in. It was about halfway through the first that the Monarchs found themselves in a tight spot. They were faced with 12 seconds of a 5 on 3 for the IceCaps. The IceCaps wasted no time in setting up on their two-man advantage. They were not able to capitalize before the first Monarch was out of the box, but capitalized 2 seconds after he got out. With a lot of traffic in front of the net, Andrew Gordon managed to beat Jones. O’Dell once again had an assist with the other going to Will O’Neill.
To start the second, the IceCaps had a 2-1 lead on the board and were leading 14-8 in shots. Manchester started the period on a power play left over from the first but could not get a good chance. The high paced, physical game continued into the second. At 9:20, the IceCaps increased their lead to 2. There was a scramble in front of the net and J.C. Lipon passed to a wide open Jason Jaffray. He put the puck into the unprotected right corner of the net. Lipon and Gordon had the assists.
Manchester kept up more in the second in terms of shots, taking 9 while St. John’s took 10. But, many of those shots were into the pads or chest of IceCaps goalie Eddie Pasquale. They were trying to play a game of catch-up most of the night. Martin Jones worked hard to keep the Monarchs in the game.
“We need to finish our hits and take more shots,” Nick Deslauriers said. “We can’t got outshot like that in our barn. We need to shoot more and hopefully get some lucky bounces.”
Tensions finally boiled over just past the halfway mark in the third as they had been threatening to do all night. Monarchs rookie Scott Sabourin and IceCaps Blair Riley, who is new to the team, ended up being squared off. Sabourin had the initial advantage and was able to get in the first couple shots. But Riley is not new to fighting in the AHL and was able to come back with two quick punches that landed and sent Sabourin to the ice.
“I thought we had a tough time finding our legs. Our compete level was nowhere near where it’s been until the last ten minutes of the game. Then, we turned it up and played with some desperation,” Head Coach Mark Morris said. “It wasn’t enough. We came out relatively strong but I thought we had some guys that weren’t pulling their weight.”
The Monarchs really turned it on and started playing like they had been so far this season in the back half of the third period. They started controlling the puck more and making more chances. At 15:43, defenseman turned wing Nick Deslauriers crashed the net and managed to sneak the puck by Pasquale to pull Manchester within one. The assists went to Brandon Kozun and Jordon Weal.
“I needed that one, it wasn’t my best game. Weal took a good shot and I was just able to put it in,” Deslauriers said. “I don’t concentrate on being a goal scorer but if I can grab the ugly goal right in front of the net, I will. I’m not afraid to put my nose in there.”
Although the Monarchs pulled Jones for the extra attacker, they were not able to tie up the game. Twice, it seemed like a puck shot by one of the IceCaps might trickle into the net, but the final score remained 3-2 in favor of the IceCaps.
“If you’re going to play a team back-to-back in less than 24 hours, you need to have everyone going. Some guys were less than we had hoped for,” Morris said. “It boils down to our mental preparation (facing them again). You have to come ready to play. You have to be able to compete at the level we’ve become accustomed to. This is a young bunch but it’s the first time I felt like we don’t compete as high as I had hoped.”
Despite the loss, there were some bright spots. Martin Jones, who will get the start again this afternoon as the teams have a rematch at 3 pm, played well as he has so far this season. Nick Deslauriers also extended his point streak to 5 with the goal. Although he has played his career so far as a defenseman, he recently made the switch up to winger. It was a position he tried in preseason as well and had a game with 4 goals.
“My teammates around me have been great and I think I got lucky the last few games,” Deslauriers said. “It’s more of a freedom to play up front, I can skate a little bit more. I still have to learn a lot, especially in my zone with helping down low on the wings. I’m just trying to bring what I can to the team.”
Manchester will look to make some corrections to their game before facing St. John’s again this afternoon. They will then be off until next Friday when they have a home and home against the Providence Bruins, another division rival.
Photo credit: Manchester Monarchs