MANCHESTER — How about a battle between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division to ring in the new year?
The Manchester Monarchs will host the Providence Bruins today at 7 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena in the annual New Year's Eve game, complete with post-game fireworks. The AHL-leading Monarchs are 22-7-5 for 49 points. The Bruins are 16-10-6 for 38 points and second place in the Atlantic behind Manchester.
The Monarchs come in fresh off a 5-2 home win over Hartford on Sunday. After dropping two games with late-game letdowns, Manchester head coach Mark Morris was pleased to see a complete effort from his team Sunday and will be looking for another tonight.
"I want to see another 60 minutes. I think playing the complete game is where we're at now," Morris said. "We've dominated teams that we just lost to in long stretches. It's all about playing the full 60 and when we do that, we're a pretty good hockey team."
Tickets for the game are still available, though pickings in the lower bowl may be slim at this point. The players are looking forward to the large crowd.
"We always look forward to it," said Monarchs forward Linden Vey, who scored two goals in Sunday's win. "It's always fun to play in front of a big crowd and New Year's is special as it is so we're lucky to be playing at home that night."
The Bruins come in having won on Sunday in Springfield, taking a 5-4 victory over the Northeast Division-leading Falcons. Providence has gone 4-3-3 in its last 10 to earn points in seven contests. Providence routed the Monarchs 7-2 when the teams last met in early December.
Providence boasts a varied scoring lineup, led by Carter Camper with seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points. Their next two scoring leaders, Ryan Spooner and Matt Fraser are up with the big club in Boston.
Also, three Bruins who skated for Boston on Saturday night in Ottawa have returned to Providence: forward Nick Johnson and defensemen Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky.
After starting a franchise record 20 games in a row, Monarchs rookie goalie J.F. Berube could get a night off finally. Another rookie, Mathias Neiderberger, was injured and has been back for the past week. Morris said he almost started Niederberger Sunday, but stuck with Berube.
Following tonight's game, the Monarchs are off until the weekend when they hit the road for games at Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey.