Once a year, a number of teams around the AHL dedicate a game to raising money for breast cancer awareness and research. They cleverly dub the game “Pink in the Rink,” which involves most teams painting the ice pink as well as swapping their normal jerseys out for pink ones instead. Saturday it was the Manchester Monarchs who had their night. This would be the second straight weekend for the Providence Bruins skating on pink ice, as they visited the Worcester Sharks last weekend for the Sharks’ Pink in the Rink game. It would also be the second time in as many nights that the two teams faced off. Friday night saw the Bruins top the Monarchs 4-2 in Providence before heading back up to Manchester.
Possibly the bigger story from the previous game was the kneeing incident by Monarchs forward Andrew Crescenzi on Bruins defenseman Joe Morrow, who had only recently returned from an injury and was absent from the Saturday night contest. Aside from Morrow, both teams made a couple of substitutions to their rosters for the second game.
The game started off with a clear display of roughness. It did not seem to have slipped anyone’s mind that the teams had only played the night before. There were a lot of open ice hits as well as along the boards and the whistle did not always stop the pushing and shoving right away.
Things might have gotten off to a fast start in terms of physicality but it was a slower start on the offensive side. Halfway through the first period, the Monarchs had only managed to register one shot on net. This was partially due to a number of shots that either went wide or were blocked by Bruins defenders.
The Monarchs finally got a flurry of shots with just over 5 minutes to go in the first period. Despite Bruins goaltender Jeremy Smith giving up rebounds and a lot of open net, the Monarchs couldn’t seem to outsmart the Bruins defenders.
Finally, the Monarchs drew first blood. Captain Vinny LoVerde was able to corral the puck along the boards in the corner to the left of Smith and put it on net. Michael Mersch tipped it just enough to redirect it past Smith. Nearly all of the Monarchs 16 shots during the first period came in the final third as they took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
At the 3:15 mark of the second, the Bruins earn their first power play of the game as Scott Sabourin sat for slashing David Warsofsky. The Bruins seemed to focus on their defense taking shots from the blue line but were unable to find success that way. Shortly after the penalty expired the teams found themselves in a 4-on-4 situation. Brian Ferlin from the Bruins sat for holding but Monarchs Derek Forbort fell victim to the new rule making it a penalty to play without a helmet. It went to 4-on-3 when the Bruins lost Zach Trotman for covering his hand on the puck. But the best chances came shorthanded for the Bruins as the teams returned to even strength.
Tensions finally seem to have reached the boiling point halfway through the game and then came the first roughing calls as Sabourin and Bruins defender Chris Breen wrestled by the boards. Sabourin also got an extra penalty for the cross check that instigated the incident. Just before the power play expired, the Bruins evened up the score at one. Ethan Werek managed to snipe it by Monarchs goalie JF Berube.
The teams couldn’t seem to stay out of the box in the second. With 43 seconds to go, the Bruins went two men down. This time the Monarchs were able to convert on the 5-on-3. Brian O’Neill found a rebound on his stick to Smith’s right and easily slid it into the open net.
When the teams came out for the third period, the shots were most notable in their differential. After only getting the puck on net 4 times during the second period, the Bruins started the final frame with a total of just 12 shots to the Monarchs 32.
The first power play of the period went to the Bruins. Bruins defenseman Chris Casto pushed Josh Gratton who ended up tackling Smith as a result and sitting for goaltender interference. Once again, it resulted in pushing and shoving, but Gratton got the sole penalty. The Bruins struggled to get set up and only registered a single shot.
Manchester continued to create strong pressure on Smith and the Bruins defense into the third. But the Bruins got another power play shot when O’Neill sat to serve two minutes.
As time wound down, the Bruins pulled Smith for the extra skater. O’Neill and the Monarchs made the most of it as he deked his way past the Bruins for the empty net goal and his second of the game.
The Monarchs will be back at it on Friday when the host the Springfield Falcons but will ditch the pink ice in the mean time. However, the roster will likely be changing again for Manchester. Derek Forbort becomes the latest to get his shot with a call-up to the LA Kings. Andrew Crescenzi will also be out of the line-up for Friday as well as for Saturday as he serves his suspension. This was supplementary discipline from his knee-to-knee hit on Bruins defender Joe Morrow on Friday in Providence.
Throughout this season, the Monarchs have shown versatility as they have had to switch lines frequently to adjust for injuries and call-ups. It will be interesting to see how they make the latest adjustments.