Monarchs Freeze in OT

After allowing the St. John’s IceCaps to take an early two-goal lead, the Manchester Monarchs struggled to take back control of the game Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena.  As the game continued, the Monarchs were able to make a comeback as they evened the score and forced the match-up into overtime.  However, the Monarchs fell 4-3 to the IceCaps after controlling a majority of OT.

As the number one ranked team in the Eastern Conference, the Monarchs did not measure up to their usual standard of aggressive play, eventually leading to their defeat.  From the very first puck drop, the Monarchs fell flat compared to the IceCaps who were eager to put themselves on the board early.

After the Monarchs’ Kevin Raine was sent to the box for roughing at 4:04 in the first, the IceCaps were given their first power-play of the game.  In an effort to defend the net, the Monarchs sent two players tight on the puck to apply pressure while also adding traffic in line to goal.  However this method was unsuccessful in killing the penalty as the defensive positioning left offensive players open across the ice.  The IceCaps saw the opening that the Monarchs’ defenders were giving them and wasted no time in taking advantage of their flawed positioning.  Keaton Ellerby sent a diagonal pass to teammate, Julien Brouillete, who quickly fired the puck towards the goal, which Brassard tipped past the Monarchs’ netminder, Jean-Francois Berube, at just 4:30 in the first period.

The IceCaps increased their momentum following the goal, only making them a more difficult opponent to defend.  The team refused to let up at all as they maintained control of the game, forcing the Monarchs to continue playing defense rather than generating their own offensive opportunities.  At 7:42, the IceCaps extended their lead to 2-0 after Eric O’Dell scooped a rebound past Berube.  Ellerby earned his second point of the night on his assist to the goal with help from Brenden Kichton who also tallied a point on the play.  Yet again, the Monarchs allowed themselves to get caught watching the player with the puck rather than marking the open players, which would have limited offensive opportunities.

After this goal the Monarchs flipped the switch on their play as they finally started to show some initiative in the game as they began implementing bigger hits and creating more offense.  The team was playing smarter than they had been previously by taking more quick shots rather than holding onto the puck in an attempt to take the perfect shot.  At 16:43, the Monarchs finally notched one past the IceCaps’ goaltender, Connor Hellebuyck, to cut their lead in half.  David Van der Gulik got the play in motion as he sent the puck to Zach O’Brien in front of the net as Andrew Bodnarchuk came barreling in from the blue line to slap the puck past Hellebuyck.

The Monarchs played much better in the second period as they increased their intensity and motivation to even the score.  However, they continued to struggle taking shots on net because of the positioning of the defending IceCaps.  The IceCaps had one player chase the puck while the others stayed tight in front of the goal drawing the Monarchs’ players towards the net.  This made it extremely difficult for the Monarchs to get their shots on goal seeing as there was so much traffic in front of the net.

At 13:39, the IceCaps’ Patrice Cormier earned a penalty for boarding and just a few seconds later he was joined by teammate John Albert who was sent to the box for tripping.  This allowed the Monarchs a two man advantage, which they refused to let go to waste.   The Monarchs worked the puck meticulously around the IceCaps’ zone and then would fire a shot on net and quickly pick up the rebound as they settled the puck and did the same thing again.  At 14:56, Michael Mersch tipped the puck into the back of the net off of a blast from Colin Miller at the point.  Mike Richards earned a point for his assist which set up Miller to unleash a one-timer on goal.

The battle continued in the third as both teams appeared very evenly matched and unwilling to give up even the slightest bit.  At 14:42, in the third the IceCaps scored yet another power-play goal to make the game 3-2.  Julien Brouillete ripped the puck top corner with help from teammates O’Dell and Brassard.  The Monarchs refused to let that goal be the deciding factor of the game and so they used it as the perfect motivation to retaliate.  At 16:06, Brian O’Neil earned his 16th goal of the season as he scored the game-tying goal that would send the game into overtime.  Van der Gulik and Richards tallied a point for their assist making it the second point of the game for both players.

The Monarchs took control immediately during OT as they maintained possession for a majority of the time.  However they continued to have trouble finding the back of the net trough the IceCaps’ traffic of bodies in front of the net.  Overtime was long and drawn out with many close calls for the IceCaps as the Monarchs continued to be aggressive on offense and fire shots at Hellebuyck.  The game-winning goal was scored at 5:02 of OT during the three-on-three play after Cormier caused a turnover in the IceCaps’ zone and created a breakaway down ice.  Cormier skated hard down ice and dangled past Berube to get the OT win for his team.

“We fell behind by two and we came back… I liked our resilience,” head coach Mike Stothers shared. “Territorially, we had the puck a lot in overtime. Sometimes that’s all it takes is one chance.”

Although this game did not have the outcome the Monarchs had hoped for it is still very eye opening for them because it shows that what they still need to work on and what they need to keep in mind looking forward.  The Monarchs are back in action Saturday night when they battle for redemption against the St. John’s IceCaps for the second night in a row.