The Manchester Monarchs went undefeated at home against the Norfolk Admirals with back-to-back 5-2 wins. Despite the Admirals’ desperate adjusting of lines and goaltender changes, they crumbled under the Monarchs’ pressure again on Sunday afternoon. The Admirals had altered their starting line-up along with a plethora of other line combination changes, including the substitution of their starting goalie for their backup, Ryan Faragher. However, the Monarchs continued to make use of their solid defense and forceful offense just as they had done the night before, easily taking another victory.

The Monarchs came out strong again; however they were not the only one looking to take home a win. The Admirals hit the ice determined and ready to redeem themselves from the previous night’s loss, yet the Monarchs maintained their offensive drive and defensive pressure from the moment the puck dropped.  The Admirals had learned from their mistakes the night before and now knew what to expect from their opponent.

Similar to Monarchs, the Admirals began sending two to the puck to serve as the pressure and the cover.  These two players would work together to force the opposing player to mishandle the puck or send a shoddy pass, which would be quickly recovered by the Admirals and brought into their offensive zone. This helped to slow down the Monarch’s strong offense initially, but it did not last long.

Zack O’Brien gave the Monarch’s an early lead at just 5:56 into the first period off of a one-timer pass from Jordan Weal assisted by Justin Auger.  This goal was the result of the Admirals’ defense playing too passive by allowing Weal to maintain possession behind the net with minimum pressure. Instead, Weal stick-handled behind the net as a distraction, allowing his teammates to move around and get open for a swift shot on goal.

For the remainder of the period the Admirals held their own as they continued to shut down the Monarchs’ offense. The Admirals were able to break up many of the Monarchs’ offensive rushes, but their transfers were sloppy at best.  This gave the Monarchs’ the opportunity to capitalize on their opponent’s mistake by stealing the puck back and slapping another shot on Faragher who continued to turn away their attempts to score. However the Monarchs fell short offensively, as many of the turnovers they forced in the Admirals’ defensive end were not taken advantage of. Therefore the Admirals were given another chance to win back the puck get the offensive pressure going against their opponent, but the Monarchs wouldn’t back down without a fight.

Seeing as this was the second night in a row for these two teams to battle it out, there was some bad blood brewing between the players.  This included the Admirals’ Jared Nightingale and Monarchs’ Josh Gratton who both earned time in the sin bin after dropping the gloves. As this was the Monarch’s holiday game, the rink was packed with a crowd filled with excitement prior to puck drop, an enthusiasm that would later serve as a major asset to the home team’s win.  The crowd’s hockey fervor was most clear during the brawl between Nightingale and Gratton broke out and the crowd began hollering wildly with exhilaration. The increase in the crowd’s enthusiasm really got Gratton’s blood boiling. He quickly tore off his challenger’s helmet and began whaling on him until he finally lost an edge and the referees separated the players, sending them to the box to serve their penalty minutes. Both teams stepped up their play following the fight, but the remainder of the period went scoreless despite their flush of adrenaline.

Moving into the second period the power play defense for both teams finally caved and allowed the other team to score with the man advantage. With just 2:54 minutes into the second, Nic Dowd found the back of the Admirals’ net with help from line mates Michael Mersch and Andrew Bodnarchuk. After returning to full strength, the Admirals’ fired back with a sniper shot from the center of their offensive zone at 3:11 in the second. Matt Bailey and Brandon Yip worked together to move the puck around the outside of the Monarchs’ defense in order to leave the center open for Antoine Laganiere to cut in front to finish the play.

Despite the Admirals’ efforts to silence the Monarch’s offense, Jordan Weal made the score 3-1 after an offensive rush with line mates, Zack O’Brien and Justin Auger at 6:32 in the second period. Following this goal, both teams simmered down for a bit offensively. They continued to go back and forth with possession, but generated no results other than several penalties. During the Admirals’ power plays, the Monarchs sustained their tight, protective square of players in front of Bartosak. The Monarchs used their body positioning and stick reach to force the Admirals’ offense to shoot wide, rather than taking quality shots on net.

After an interference call on Monarchs’ Derek Forbort, the Admirals gained possession with the man advantage. At 15:16 into the second, William Karlsson ripped one passed Bartosak after receiving the assists from Max Friberg and Brendan Bell. The Admirals passed the puck around the frantic Monarchs’ defenders as they constantly moved across the ice and changed the direction of the puck. They worked to create different shooting angles, which Karlsson took advantage of when he hammered one past Bartosak.

Just before the second period ended, the Monarchs went on a power play that translated into a goal from Jeff Schultz. The Monarchs used their man advantage to draw the Admirals’ defense out just enough to leave space for Sean Backman and Nic Dowd to set Schultz up for the perfect drive on net with less than 30 seconds left in the period.

Only one goal was scored in the final period of the game, which was by the Monarchs’ right wing, Brian O’Neil, after a flawless give-and-go pass from center, Nick Shore. This goal closed the door on the Admirals’ chances of winning with only 6:49 into the third. There was no let up from the Manchester Monarchs, but rather a model demonstration of composure that aided in the team’s victory. With a three goal advantage against their opponent, they played smart by utilizing safe, easy passes to maintain possession.

With this win, the Monarchs extend their home winning streak to six straight games dating back to Nov. 8.  Looking forward, the Monarchs hope to bring this momentum into their next game on the road against the Portland Pirates. The Monarchs plan to avenge their most recent shootout loss to the Pirates by overpowering them in regulation. The momentum of this game will go with the Monarchs as they head to Portland with plans to sink the Pirate’s ship.

About The Author

Junior at Saint Anselm College majoring in Communication with a double minor in Spanish and Sport Studies. Currently interning with Inside Hockey as a sports journalist for the Manchester Monarchs.

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