MANCHESTER, N.H. — A pair of goals from David Van der Gulik sailed the Manchester Monarchs past the Portland Pirates Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Not only was this the first game back for the Monarchs since the All-Star break, but it was also Mike Richards’ AHL debut. The day before the game Richards had been waived by the L.A Kings and assigned to the Monarchs. It was only fitting that his first official AHL game with the Monarchs was a win for the former Stanley Cup champion.
The Monarchs came out firing from the very beginning with an early goal just 4:24 into the first period. Van der Gulik earned his first goal of the night after aggressively getting after the puck in front of Pirates goaltender Louis Domingue. Teammates Justin Auger and Jordan Weal both tallied a point for their assists on the goal. The remainder of the first period carried on scoreless despite the Monarchs’ strong offensive rush.
It became evident early in the game that their turbulent history was going to be a factor in the outcome. Neither team was backing down as the bad blood between these two teams was just beginning to boil. Monarchs’ Ryan Horvat earned the first penalty of the game after dropping the gloves with Pirates’ Jordan Szwarz. As the two players skated to the penalty box to serve their fighting majors the Monarchs crowd roared loudly. The team responded to the fans participation as they continued to work hard and maintain pressure in the Pirates defensive zone.
As the second period began the Monarchs rush of energy and momentum started to dwindle as the Pirates drive to win grew immensely. The Pirates picked up the pace as they took control of the game as they forced the puck through the Monarchs defense creating myriad shots on goal. Offensively the Pirates worked hard to keep the puck in the Monarchs zone by any means possible such as strong body contact or quick skating to break up plays. As the Pirates controlled the puck they would have one player maintain possession while another would skate through to create traffic to confuse the Monarchs and create more space to carry the puck out.
The Pirates tied the game at 9:29 in the second period after Darian Dziurzynski slapped a one-timer through the five-hole of Monarchs goalie Jean-Francois Berube, with help from linemates Alexandre Bolduc and Henrik Samuelsson. The Pirates surge did not stop there –they continued to storm the net and continued to outshoot the Monarchs 13-10 in the second period alone.
In the third period the Pirates maintained strong defense by limiting the Monarchs shooting possibilities, but they also were struggling to make something happen offensively. The Monarchs utilized smart body positioning to deflect pucks out of their zone and quickly transferred the puck down ice creating their own shooting opportunities. The Monarchs used their long stick reach to push the Pirates back behind Berube to eliminate any shooting angles. Defensively the Monarchs began sending one man to the puck while a teammate stayed close by ready to clean up any lose pucks. This proved to be very successful in the Monarchs defense which then was translated into their offense.
At 9:25 in the third period Kevin Raine gave the Monarchs the lead after Raine smacked one through Domingue. The Monarchs demonstrated clean tape-to-tape passes down the ice which started with Ryan Horvat and worked its way to Josh Gratton who worked the puck the down the left side allowing Raine to open the right side. Gratton fed the puck past the Pirates defense to Raine who sent the puck to the back of the net.
Just a few minutes later Van der Gulik he earned his second goal of the night after causing a turnover in the Monarchs’ defensive zone. The Pirates went on the power-play at 12:09 after Richards was called for hooking. The Monarchs quickly adjusted their defense to play man down for the next two minutes. They stayed tight around Berube, careful not to screen his view. One player was sent to chase the puck while the remaining three kept tight pressure in front. Van der Gulik broke up the Pirates’ play and swiftly carried the puck down ice and into the net as he scored a shorthanded goal to shut the door against the Pirates.
“That shorthanded goal was huge,” head coach Mike Stothers stated. “It’s nice to see [Van der Gulik] get a couple goals. He does so many things so well for us. He doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, but with the roster we have, he’s a very reliable player.”
As the Monarchs look forward, they will reflect on this game and realize what they did well, such as a pair of goals from Van der Gulik, and the things that still need work, such as maintaining their standard of play. The Monarchs next game is Wednesday when they host Albany at 7 p.m. for their annual “Pink in the Rink” game to raise money for the Breast Cancer Center at Catholic Medical Center.