Monarchs Sweep Homestand – Don’t Call it a Comeback
Holy. Freaking. Crap.
Those three words pretty much sum up my feelings about the Monarchs’ three game homestand. They played three games, won them all in regulation, and kept their hopes of sneaking into the Calder Cup Playoffs alive. They did their part, the hockey gods did theirs. Now it’s up to the team to bring it home.
Six points and a tie-breaker rule put Manchester in the ninth place in the conference, tied in points with the Hershey Bears (who are in tenth) and two points behind the Connecticut Whale (in eighth). They have three games left on their schedule, all of them are next weekend, and all of them are away. So what’s going to happen? I’m no fortune teller, but I certainly can tell you what I saw this weekend.
On Friday night, the Monarchs took on the Whale. It was a pretty close contest most of the night with an outcome of the Monarchs winning 3-1 (the third being an empty netter). Although the score was close for most of the night, special teams were the story of the night. The Whale drew first blood late in the first with a power play goal from a name Rags (aka Rangers) fans might recognize, Chris Kreider.
Too bad he had four times as many penalty minutes as he did goals. Tool.
After nearly a period of blocked shot after blocked shot, the Monarchs answered late in the second period with a power play goal of their own from Jordan Weal. Roughly two minutes later, they took their first lead of the night with an even strength goal by Kings’ first round pick, Tanner Pearson. The night would be capped off by an empty net power play goal by Brandon Kozun.
Ironically, the second star of the night was the Whale’s goaltender, Cameron Talbot. If you ask me, he should have been first. That poor bastard… He was peppered with 45 shots; for contrast, Martin Jones only saw 20 shots.
This takes us into Saturday night and a must-win game against the Hershey Bears. The game started out extraordinarily lopsided with the Monarchs going up 3 goals to none within two minutes time; two from Andy Andreoff and one (his first) from Chris Huxley. It was crazy; the place went nuts after the third goal. But this elation wasn’t meant to last. We might love saying “The Bears suck!”, the reality is they’re a decent team. Too decent to be blanked 3-0.
In the second period the Bears roared back, even coming very close to tying it. Around the 11 minute mark, professional tryout player Hunter Bishop scored the team’s fourth goal, putting them ahead for the period. That goal would stand up the rest of the game, earning the Monarchs two more points with a 4-3 win.
I’ve always heard that bad things — sneezes, deaths, etc. — usually come in threes. Thankfully, victory was the vehicle for a trio of happenings this weekend. Sunday’s matchup was an afternoon matinee against division rival, the Worcester Sharks, a team with no other possible role than to play spoiler; they’re well out of the playoff picture. The Monarchs have had the fish’s number in their past two meetings, so what were we to expect today? Exactly what the Monarchs needed.
The game was close for much of the time, neither team scoring, both teams throwing the same amount of rubber at the opposing netminder. It wasn’t until halfway through the third period that the Monarchs lit up recent San Jose Sharks call-up Alex Stalock and went ahead 1-0 via a goal by Kozun. Roughly eight minutes later, they doubled up their lead with a goal by team MVP, Linden Vey. The third and final goal of the night was an empty netter by the captain, Marc-Andre Cliche.
That’s right, they capped off their three games in just as many nights with a 3-0 shutout.
It wouldn’t be some sort of fanboy hyperbole to say that this weekends games (and wins) were the best 180 minutes of hockey I’ve seen the Monarchs play in months. There was a sense of urgency, they had sticks in lanes, finished their checks, did everything they could to keep the puck out of their net, and consistently put it in the back of their opponents’. This is the kind of hockey they need right now.
It’s safe to say that this crew believes they can do the near-impossible. And you know what? I never stopped believing, but if I had wavered at all, this weekend set me straight.
Next weekend will determine the fate of their post-season life.
Bring it on home, boys.
Go Monarchs (and Kings)!