As division rivals, the Manchester Monarchs and Portland Pirates play 12 times a season. Starting last season, the two teams added a little bit extra to the rivalry. They turned the 12 games into a series, at the end of which the winner got a trophy. It was dubbed the VIP Cup and sponsored by VIP Tires. They decided to carry it over for a second season and last night was the 4th of 12 meetings this season for the teams. Coming into last night’s game, the Monarchs led 2-1.
This season has been taxing at times for the Monarchs, who have had more than their fair share of call ups and injuries to deal with. It has not stopped the momentum, though. Instead, other players have found themselves stepping up. Last night, Manchester would once again have center Linden Vey in the lineup as he returned from the LA Kings. They also got another player back. Forward Brian O’Neill had been out with a broken hand but last night marked his first game back. He made that return still wearing a partial cast which did not seem to slow him at all.
The story of the night was the Monarchs third line of forwards: Brian O’Neill, Drew Shore, and Andy Andreoff. It was Drew Shore who struck first, at 4:36 of the first and on the power play. There was a lot of traffic in front of the net when Shore managed to put it behind Pirates goalie Mark Visentin. Despite being atop the conference, Manchester had been struggling on the power play.
The first period definitely belonged to the Monarchs. Later that period, they tried to capitalize on another power play but would have to wait until just after it expired. Shore rung a shot off the post and Brian O’Neill was there to put it home. His first goal of the night came at 10:55. He would add a second goal at 17:21 of the first. Once again, he had Shore to thank. Shore dug the puck out of the corner and fed it to O’Neill who was right in front of Visentin.
Portland did not seem to want to go to the first intermission without anything to show and they got onto the board with under a minute to go in the period. Jordan Martinook got the best of Monarchs goalie JF Berube on a rebound he just could not control. But that last minute of the first seemed to drag on for awhile. Both teams took penalties, putting them four on four as the period drew to a close. With under 3 seconds remaining in the period, Jordan Weal gave Manchester a 4-1 lead to take into the first intermission.
With the way the first period ended, it seemed all but certain that the teams would play a physical second. Things seemed very heated at the end of the first, but calmed back down between periods. There was one change, though. After allowing four goals in the first on 14 shots, the Pirates swapped Louis Domingue in for Visentin.
The goalie change did not seem to make too much of a difference, though. Manchester struck first in the second period as well to jump out to a 5-1 lead. This time, it was Andy Andreoff’s goal. The third line on Manchester now had 4 of the 5 goals and all three of them had multi-point nights.
After that goal, Portland seemed to be controlling more of the play. Despite that, they were not getting good quality shots. A number of times they missed wide in one direction or the other on what should have been a good chance. The second period ended with Manchester still up 5-1.
When the teams came out for the final frame, the Monarchs found themselves on an early power play again. It looked like they would struggle once again when Tanner Pearson came through. About halfway through the power play Pearson sniped the puck over Domingue’s shoulder in what might have been the goal of the season for him.
That was when tensions really did seem to boil over. During just the third period, the teams combined for 72 minutes in penalties including 4 fighting majors, 3 ten minute misconducts, and a game misconduct. Darian Dziurzynski of the Pirates ended up with a ten minute misconduct followed my a fighting major and a game misconduct. As the official was trying to take him off the ice, Dziurzynski tried to take a run at the Manchester bench.
During the final frame, Portland managed to get on the board one more time. Keven Veilleux added his second of the season but it was as close as his team would come. Despite the lead the Monarchs had, they were still willing to step in at the end of the game with the Pirates started playing rougher.
With the win, the Monarchs took a 3-1 lead in the VIP Cup. Manchester heads down to Bridgeport for their last game before having a couple days off for Christmas. It will be a nice break for them to get to see some family and deal with any injuries that have been bothering them. The Pirates host the Providence Bruins tonight up in Lewiston, ME.