(Photo: www.unionleader.com – Linden Vey, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson reunited as a line)
The rivalry between the Manchester Monarchs and the Worcester Sharks has always been a strong one. This season, despite Manchester hovering at the top of the conference, they have had a little bit of a hard time facing the Sharks. In the last meeting, they lost in a shootout in Worcester.
The two teams came into the game both having one their previous contest and both benefitting from the Olympic break in the NHL. The break has seen the reunion of Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey, and Tanner Pearson on the same line and last night the chemistry was apparent.
“(Toffoli) showed a scoring touch, and obviously the familiarity with his linemates from previous stints had a lot to do with it,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “He’s a guy that has a gift to score and we saw a taste of that here today. Obviously, that line put up a lot of points and they did exactly what we’d hoped they would do.”
Manchester set the pace early, completely controlling the action in their offensive zone. Despite a couple good chances, Sharks goaltender Troy Grosenick was doing an excellent job of keeping his team in it early. Just over seven minutes into the game, Manchester went on their first power play. Coming back into the zone, after a clear by the Sharks, Jordan Weal out skated the Sharks defensemen and passed it to Zach O’Brien. O’Brien fed it right back to Weal in a great move so he could put the Monarchs on the board at 8:25.
It was an important goal for the Monarchs who have been struggling on the power play. It was not until after that goal that the Sharks even got their first shot of the game on Martin Jones. Although Manchester had to spend some time on the penalty kill, they completely dominated the first period. They put 18 shots on Grosenick in the first period alone and limited their opponents to only 6.
At the start of the second period, the Monarchs were still on the penalty kill and would have to face being down two men when Vincent LoVerde went off early for tripping. It was 23 seconds of 5-on-3 hockey. It seemed like the Monarchs might get out unscathed, but just after the first penalty expired, the Sharks scored on the 5-on-4. There was a lot of traffic in front of Jones, who did not seem to be able to see them puck as Sharks forward Freddie Hamilton put it past him.
Grosenick was still playing strong between the pipes for Worcester, but it was not enough to stop the first goal of the night from Tyler Toffoli. Linden Vey passed to Andrew Bodnarchuk who fed it to Toffoli in a pass across the crease. Grosenick was not able to change sides quick enough to stop Toffoli from the easy score just past the halfway mark of the second. But that would not be all as the Monarchs had one more goal in them from the second period.
The Monarchs found themselves on a 5-on-3 for almost two full minutes as Sharks defenseman Nick Petrecki went off for holding. He was following 14 seconds later by fellow defenseman Taylor Doherty who had to serve a double minor for high sticking. The Sharks frantically tried to clear the puck but were not able to. Tanner Pearson managed to get the goal from Nick Deslauriers and Nick Shore.
“I think it’s big. That wins hockey games, especially down the road when it comes to playoff time,” Pearson said on scoring power play goals. “It’s crucial. When you’re struggling, the power play can generate a lot for you.”
Through two periods, the Sharks had only managed to take 11 shots while Manchester had taken 28. When the third period started, the Sharks seemed to pick up their pace a little bit, registering 15 shots in the final period but it was much to little and much too late. Jones faced a lot of traffic in front of his net but did not let another one past him.
Toffoli, on the other hand, showed just how talented he is with the puck. He added his second and third goals of the game in the second half of the final period. With the smaller crowd, only a few people tossed their hats. What was more impressive was that it was the second hat trick of the season for the second year pro who has only played 16 games. He adds that to the two hat tricks from last season for a Manchester record for most hat tricks by a player. He has accomplished this feat in just 75 games.
Although Linden Vey did not join his linemates in adding a goal, he assisted on all three of Toffoli’s goals as well as lending an assist on Weal’s goal. It seemed like the best game he had played in awhile as the Monarchs first line has regained their chemistry. He earned second star of the game while Toffoli claimed first star honors.
Despite allowing 5 goals, Troy Grosenick was named third star of the game for making 38 saves on 43 shots, some of them coming in impressive fashion. Last night, the Sharks skated 7 defensemen and only 11 forwards. Two of those players included forward Freddie Hamilton and defenseman Matt Tennyson, who got into a car accident earlier in the day yesterday but were apparently fine.
Manchester plays on the road tonight against Hartford, while the Sharks had to hop on a bus to Binghamton immediately following the game to face them tonight. The Monarchs will be back at home tomorrow afternoon as they host the IceCaps. It is the final meeting of 10 between the two teams this season and Manchester has only gone 3-6-0-0 against their division rivals.