In the first road game against the Portland Pirates (formerly the Arizona Coyotes affiliate), the Monarchs didn't have the same jump that they'd had in the first two games of the series. Once again, Manchester found themselves holding on for dear life early in the first period.
Adrian Kempe was one of the few bright spots in this game. He was great, using his speed to create zone entries and back off opponents. He even had both goals for Manchester and had a glorious attempt a hat trick, but flubbed the opportunity.
Things were already tough defensively for the road team with Jeff Schulz being injured. Believe it or not, he provides a calm, steadying leadership on the ice and kind of acts as a stabilizer for Colin Miller. While Kevin Raine has done an admirable job stepping up and filling in, it's obviously still preferable to have your optimal starting lineup for the Calder Cup Final.
They didn't get any better when Brian O'Neill was shoved heavily into the boards early in the first period. That's a huge blow to the Monarchs both offensively and defensively, as the solid two-way winger provides a great all around game. If O'Neill is unavailable for tomorrow's game, I suspect Sean Backman will move up to take his place -- but nothing is certain.
For what it's worth, Terry Koharski is one of the worst referees in the AHL. He's completely inconsistent and he calls what he wants and just kind of randomly picks and chooses.
Utica scored shortly after an early Colin Miller penalty on a clean hit (it was a makeup call) expired. Cal O'Reilly, who had zero playoff goals coming into the game but had like 15 assists, scored the first of his two goals in the game.
Things went from bad to worse when JF Berube went out with an injury eight minutes into the first. He attempted to make a save and went down, clutching his right side.
Berube took a shot from his right and went down immediately. Not sure if it was the shot that hurt him or a stick as player skated by.— Andy Tonge (@AndyTonge1) June 10, 2015
Horrifying scene. Berube in large amounts of pain. Barto says something to him as he leaves. Not good. pic.twitter.com/nfGUMn8ow7— Andy Tonge (@AndyTonge1) June 10, 2015
So in came Patrik Bartosak, who didn't dress for Games 1 and 2 since he was suffering from back spasms.
Utica wasted no time in testing the cold goalie and scored shortly before the period ended.
Manchester responded shortly thereafter with a big goal. Derek Forbort kept the puck in the zone and put a shot on goal. Kempe jumped on the rebound and buried it.
Mercifully, the period ended a couple minutes later.
The second period was a little better, but not by much. Just as Manchester was starting to find their game, forcing some massive saves out of Jacob Markstrom, O'Reilly scored for Utica again. Bartosak was completely screened on the goal and couldn't do anything.
Again, the Monarchs responded after giving up the goal and again it was Kempe. He drove down the right wing boards and tried to stuff it past Markstrom. I don't know if Markstrom kicked it in his own net, but the puck just seemed to kind of trickle past him.
From there on out, both netminders slammed the door shut. Manchester had finally found its legs, but couldn't find the tying goal.
The third period was possibly the most boring period of hockey ever played. As expected, Utica has no killer instinct and went into a defensive shell. I'm not sure they even really attempted many shots. They kept three players back at all times and killed all
enjoyment offensive attempts from the opposing team. Even with a late power play, the Monarchs couldn't break through. Close, but no cigar multiple times.
Here are the lineups both teams went with:
Van der Gulik-Dowd-Backman
In an interesting way, Markstrom kind of stole this game for Utica who went into a total defensive shell after their third goal. As we all know, defensive shells will usually burn you. It almost did were it not for Markstrom, who has been nothing short of terrific this postseason.
Notes and Player Statistics
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Individual Stats
|14||David Van der Gulik||LW||13||2||7||9||5||4||0||0||16||12.5|
- Bartosak played pretty well as a replacement for Berube.
- It took a while but he seemed to really settle down and play well after the third goal was scored (on which he was heavily screened).
- He spoke with Andy Tonge after the game on Periscope (so I don't have any recorded comments) and said that his back was feeling fine and he feels good.
- All three games have been decided by one goal. This has a distinctly familiar feeling to it and I can't quite put my finger on it...
- Aside from Kempe, no one else really stood out much. His line was doing a lot of work and the Monarchs are going to need that depth scoring to come through, especially if they lose O'Neill for any extended period of time.
Ignore the titles, because they're wrong. Also, thankfully the Kings didn't make the playoffs so now we don't have to deal with the shitty AHL Live feed and can actually get high quality, high definition video. Woohoo for Kings Vision!
Manchester Monarchs 15 Playoffs Schedule
Today was a rest day and the Monarchs held an optional practice. Per Andy Tonge's twitter feed, Jeff Schultz skated for the second day in a row, which is a good sign, and Berube was at practice without the walking boot he had on last night, but had a noticeable limp.
Also, Jeff Lerg and Steve Mastalerz, both who were signed while Bartosak was recovering from his back spasms, practiced with the team today.
Berube's edge caught the ice as he fell. That's how he got injured. No word on how severe.— Andy Tonge (@AndyTonge1) June 11, 2015
Sadly, the AHL is even more incompetent than the NHL when it comes to player safety so Alex Friesen gets away with his vicious boarding on O'Neill, who did not practice today.
Manchester returns to the Aud tomorrow and will try to close out the series on the road on Saturday night.