Ian Clark's On Hockey: Monarchs' Pearson steps up when needed most
MANCHESTER -- FACING a two-game series with two of their top scorers headed west to join the parent club in Los Angeles, the Manchester Monarchs needed someone to step up.
Even though it was his linemates Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli who had been called up, Tanner Pearson answered the bell with a goal and three assists to lead the Monarchs to two wins over Providence this past weekend.
“No doubt he had to be feeling a little left out of that group that got called up,” Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said of Pearson. “But to his credit, he really brought his ‘A’ game, and I think those are two of the strongest games that anyone has played for us this year on the offensive side of things. He was dominant on the puck and made a lot of clever plays.”
Pearson, who has six goals and five assists for the season, played on the right wing with Andy Andreoff and rookie Nick Shore. Normally a left wing, Pearson said the adjustment was a little different for him, but he settled in quickly.
As for not getting called up to L.A., Pearson knows that patience is the key. Toffoli had a strong showing in the playoffs with the Kings last season, and Vey had a strong training camp.
“Toff put in his time last year and Veysey has played two years in the league here. I’m patiently waiting for that call, and we’ll see what happens,” Pearson said. “When guys get called up, you don’t want to be the guy who looks like you get all your points off those two. That was a big weekend in that aspect. I think I succeeded.”
Morris agreed, calling Pearson’s weekend something other players can look to for inspiration.
“He really competed hard, and I think that says a lot about him and his pride, and I think he set a good example for the other guys,” Morris said. “If you’re going to get opportunities, you have to prove you belong, and those are the types of efforts that get you the recognition you’re looking for. His presence on that line elevated both (Shore and Andreoff), and they had strong games as well. That’s exactly what you would hope would happen.”
The wins also accounted for four big points in the standings. Manchester leads the AHL with 19 points at 8-1-3. An Atlantic Division rival, Providence fell to 4-4-2 for 10 points. It still may be early, but points against division foes are always huge.
Manchester not only dominated with a combined score of 9-3 in the two wins over the Bruins, but also improved to 4-0-0 against them this season.
“The AHL is a funny league,” Morris said. “You have to stay healthy and learn to adapt. Thus far, we’ve been able to find our way. The margin for wins and losses is very slim. Timely goals and good goaltending have given us the spot we’re in right now.”
LONDONDERRY’S Ian O’Connor, who had been with St. John’s, was re-signed this week along with defenseman Chris Huxley. Both finished last season in Manchester.
“The addition of Chris Huxley and Ian O’Connor brings us two familiar faces that were a part of our late-season run last year,” Morris said. “When you can add guys of that character to your lineup and guys of that quality, it’s a much smoother transition. They’re a little bit older, but they’re great team players. When you have call-ups, these guys help to fill that void, and they do a great job of it.”
THE MONARCHS make the first of two road trips to Newfoundland this weekend, playing at St. John’s Friday and Saturday nights ( 6 p.m.). The IceCaps are in second place in the Atlantic at 5-6-1 for 11 points.
“It’s a long trip. It’s a great hockey atmosphere in St. John’s,” Morris said. “The entire community supports the team, and it’s a way of life in that city. No matter where you go, you see their logo and their pride in their hockey.”
MORRIS is two wins away from 300 as a professional coach. He would become the first coach ever to log 300 wins at the pro and college levels.
Morris was head coach at Clarkson University for 14 years, racking up 306 wins.
Following the road trip, the Monarchs will host Norfolk at 10 a.m. next Wednesday in the annual education game before visiting Portland Friday and then hosting Norfolk once again on Saturday, Nov. 16, for “Mullets in Movember.”
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.