The Manchester Monarchs seem to be proving that they want to win no matter what. They have been plagued first by call ups to the Kings and then by injuries to the players who had been stepping up in the absence. But, they showed again that they are a strong team last night when they topped division rivals, the Worcester Sharks.
It was the Monarchs who struck first. Working seamlessly with Scott Sabourin and new addition Cameron Burt, Sean Backman found himself behind the Sharks defensemen. He made a really nice move to put the puck past Sharks goalie Harri Sateri. Burt, who got the secondary assist, had been with the Monarchs in camp but was released prior to the season starting. Although he is a defenseman, the Monarchs skated him at forward as in preseason.
After the 6 minute mark, the Sharks still had not taken any shots but would not be kept off the board for much longer. At 7:22, Riley Brace dug the puck out of the corner and fed it to Curt Gogol who beat JF Berube to even the score at 1. Through the rest of the first, there was a lot of hitting but not many good chances. Both teams had trouble setting up in the offensive zones. At almost the end of the period, the Sharks rung one off the post, but the teams went to the intermission tied.
Once again, Manchester opened the period with a goal of their own. At 1:46 of the second, Mike Ullrich came in from the corner, passed to himself off the boards behind the net, and then beat Sateri for his first AHL goal in his first AHL game. Manchester signed him to a PTO last week and Ullrich joined the team leaving a road trip in the middle. He has the benefit of playing now in Manchester with Hunter Bishop who he played with in juniors and has played with in the ECHL.
After the Monarchs took the 2-1 lead, the Sharks really seemed to be struggling with their passes. But, both teams had already doubled their shots just over six minutes into the game. Less than halfway through the second, tensions finally seemed to boil over a bit between the two fierce division rivals. There was a lot of pushing and shoving with possibly a punch or two through. But the result was just a pair of roughing penalties and four on four hockey for 2 minutes. Still before the halfway mark, a fight broke out. Manchester’s Hunter Bishop and Worcester’s Dylan Demelo exchanged a few punches while squared off before Bishop threw Demelo down.
Harri Sateri, who has been struggling to get back to form early this season, made some impressive saves during the second to really keep the Sharks in the game. At 16:46, the Sharks looked like they could even the score. Bracken Kearns was pulled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. Kearns skated in and stopped just in front of Berube but shot low and Berube had no problem saving it. At the end of the second, the Sharks were part way through a four minute power play after Monarchs’ Nick Deslauriers went to the box for a double minor for high sticking.
At the start of the third period, the Sharks still had the power play. But, Manchester was able to kill it off without much of a serious effort by the Sharks. The only real and serious chance came with about 10 seconds when Sebastian Stalberg fired one. Although the Sharks were outshooting the Monarchs, Manchester was making their shots count. Sateri came up with a big save as the Monarchs slid the puck across his crease. At 7:21, the Monarchs increased their lead to 3-1. Rookie Scott Sabourin, who Manchester head coach Mark Morris described as having his best game so far, skated in and beat Sateri.
About halfway through the final period, there seemed to be another fight. Manchester’s Andy Andreoff and Worcester’s Curt Gogol seemed to square off. There were a couple shots exchanged before Gogol went down and brought Andreoff with him. Despite that, the pair only got roughing penalties with Andreoff getting an extra two for unsportsmanlike conduct. Manchester was able to kill off the extra penalty with the Sharks ringing another one off the post. With the final minutes winding down, Manchester added one more. Brandon Kozun, who has been heating up with all the call ups, beat Sateri with the assist to Nick Deslauriers. The final score was 4-1.
The teams each play home games tonight before meeting again in Worcester on Sunday afternoon. The division rivals meet 12 times over the course of the season and Sunday’s meeting will be the third. The struggling Sharks look to build off of last weekend’s success in St. John’s while the Monarchs look to keep things rolling.