(Photo: Heather Stebbins, The Pink Puck)
The Manchester Monarchs were among the last teams to have their home opener. Coming into the weekend, only the Monarchs and Hershey Bears were yet to play a home game. Manchester saw their first game on Friday, October 24th with a 5-2 win over the Portland Pirates.
Their Opening Weekend continued when they hosted the Providence Bruins last night. It was the first of twelve meetings between the teams and it was one that the Manchester Monarchs would like to put behind them without looking back. The next meeting will be Saturday, November 15th in Manchester once again.
“It’s one of those games you want to put behind you as quickly as possible. You almost wish you had another game tomorrow so you could put it behind you,” Head Coach Mike Stothers said after the game. “But we have a week before our next game, so we’ll take tomorrow off then get back to work on Monday.”
Providence opened the scoring and never looked back. Alexander Khokhlachev has his third of the season just 1:45 into the game. The assists went to 2014 first round pick David Pastrnak and free agency acquisition Chris Breen. Later during the first period, Ryan Spooner and Craig Cunningham had a nice give and go, only to miss beating Monarchs rookie goalie Patrik Bartosak. With traffic in front of the net, it seemed Cunningham had managed to net his first goal of the season. After a review, the goal was waved off. But, as the first period was expiring, Cunningham managed to get a first goal of the season that would stick with a snipe. Pastrnak got his second assist of the night.
The first excitement of the middle frame came from a fight instead of a goal. Veteran enforcer Josh Gratton and Bruins tough guy Tyler Randell dropped the gloves and duked it out. It was Randell’s second fighting major. For Gratton, it was the second night in a row where he had gotten into a fight. The two battled for far longer than fights usually last and each landed some good punches. In the end, it was Randell with a flurry that got the edge as Gratton finally lost his footing.
Just after the fight, the scoring for the Bruins resumed. Khokhlachev added his second of the game to give Providence the 3-0 lead. Pastrnak also notched his third assist of the game. The 18 year old now has 9 points in just 7 games. But the Bruins were not done with scoring in the second. Cunningham added his second of the season and the game.
The Monarchs’ struggles continued before the second period was over, though. Veteran defenseman Jeff Schultz attempted a pass to get the puck out of the Monarchs zone. Unfortunately, it ended up right on Ryan Spooner’s stick. Spooner neatly passed the puck to Cunningham. With that, Cunningham had the hat trick and his first three goals of the season. Spooner also assisted Cunningham’s second goal.
That resulted in a goalie change for Manchester. JF Berube came in to replace Bartosak and the score stayed at 5-0 for the rest of the game. After the game, Berube talked about what it is like to come in mid game like that.
“You always have to be prepared that you might come in during a game, even if you’re not playing. You have to pay attention,” Berube said. “You just want to see that first shot quickly so you can adjust.”
The third period did not feature any scoring, but it cannot be said that the Monarchs rolled over to accept their fate. They kept playing throughout the final period, but the closest they were able to come was when Jordan Weal rung two separate shots off the crossbar.
Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban played a strong game. Although he gave up a good amount of rebounds, his defensemen were always there to help clear out the puck. With 26 saves, this was his first shutout of the season. During 2013-2014, his rookie season, he only had one shutout.
It was not a good game for the Manchester Monarchs. Following the game, Coach Stothers made it clear that he just wanted to put the game behind them. He also made it clear that any adjustments to lines during the game did not reflect anyone playing worse than anyone else.
“I can’t single anyone out as having played worse, that’s not why I changed lines. Nobody really played well.”
Manchester has a young team and a loss like this could actually end up being good for them. The Calder Cup is not won or lost in the first games of the season. Being that this was only game 5 of 76, there is time. The young players have an opportunity to learn from this.
The Monarchs are also still without defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk. He is rehabbing from a knee injury that he suffered during a training camp practice in LA about a month ago. Coach Stothers was unable to provide a timeline for Bodnarchuk’s return.
“No, I know a lot of coaches say no to that question but no,” Stothers said when asked if he knew when Bodnarchuk would return. “He’s still got work to do.”
Manchester returns to action next weekend. They host the Hershey Bears on Friday, October 31st as well as Sunday, November 2nd. On Saturday night, they host the St. John’s IceCaps.