The Manchester Monarchs face off against the Norfolk Admirals four times this season. On Wednesday, they hosted the Admirals for a 10 am game for the 4th annual Education Day. On Saturday, Manchester closed out the set of home games against the Admirals.
Manchester had to skate just 16 skaters against the Admirals because those were the only skaters available to them. Following their game Wednesday morning, starting goaltender, Martin Jones, and forward Tanner Pearson. He started the season on the top line with Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey. All are currently with the Kings. The Monarchs were able to skate 18 players on Friday, but they suffered another blow. Zach O’Brien, who Manchester recently signed to a PTO, was unavailable on Saturday due to back spasms. Ian O’Connor, also on a PTO, suffered a high ankle sprain.
“The guys were sucking wind. I was tapping them and telling them that they were up next and they were like are you kidding me?” Morris joked. “I give our guys credit. They played hard and executed well under the circumstances. We’re the walking wounded right now. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a team decimated like this before.”
Come Saturday night, the Monarchs had their third game in three nights and were just trying to give it everything they had to hang in against a team that Monarchs head coach Mark Morris called a talented team.
“The guys gave it everything they had today, they had to. We had 9 forwards and 7 defensemen. With all the losses we’ve had this week and last week, you can’t say enough good things about the guys in the locker room. They laid it all on the line here and beat a lot of talented hockey players.”
Just 1:15 into the game, the Monarchs struck first. Admirals goaltender John Gibson went down to make the initial save. As he was down on the ice, Brandon Kozun picked the puck up and put it into the net easily. Despite being short players, the Monarchs were putting up a strong effort. Later on the power play, they continued their pressure. It looked as if they would have trouble converting. Then, Nick Deslauriers managed to put one past Gibson. Jordan Weal passed across the center to Deslauriers who dropped his knee at the face-off circle and fired it home.
Immediately following the second Manchester goal, the Admirals appeared to cut the lead in half. The referees ruled on the ice that there was no goal. Admirals captain Garnet Exelby argued the call and it went to review. But, the call stood and the teams ended up going to the first intermission with Manchester leading 2-0.
The first penalty of the second period came when Monarchs defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk went off for interference. Almost immediately, Chris Wagner cut the Admirals lead in half. Despite a couple more penalties, neither team was able to convert again. Things got a little bit chippy between the two teams, but nothing seemed to completely boiled over.
When the teams came back out for the third, JF Berube was making some impressive saves. Prior to Jones being recalled, Berube had only started one game. He has now started the last three games in a row and has impressed. Rookie Colin Miller went off for hooking and Manchester went to the penalty kill. Kozun and Jordan Weal managed to get a breakaway despite being short handed. Weal passed across to Kozun, who was able to put it away and regain the two goal lead.
Shortly after that goal, the Monarchs had another player go to the box. They were facing 1:08 of a two man disadvantage. Somehow, they were able to help Berube stand tall and kill both penalties. Then, shortly after it went back to even strength hockey, the Admirals cut the lead to 3-2. Exelby passed to Maxime Sauve next to the net who passed across to Antoine Laganiere. Laganiere was able to put it past Berube.
The game ended up 3-2, despite a late effort from Brandon Kozun. He was going for the hat trick but was stopped by Gibson. The look on his face said it all, but he was just glad that the team got the win. With the team as decimated at they were, it was a great effort by them. The team will have the week off to regroup but will face another challenge next weekend. They have games Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and will undoubtedly hope to see the return of some injured players.