MANCHESTER — Manchester Monarchs fans came out in “force” for a Star Wars-themed birthday party for mascot Max on Sunday and saw the home team edge Hershey 2-1.
Sporting green jerseys for the Girl Scouts, the Monarchs outshot Hershey 36-20 in what ended up as a goaltender battle between Manchester’s J.F. Berube and Hershey’s Philipp Grubauer in front of 8,902 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena. Manchester improved to 42-17-8 while Hershey fell to 32-25-8.
“We looked like a team that was a little bit gassed from a real emotional (5-2 win at Springfield Saturday). I thought we played well enough to win,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “Credit Hershey with a good push there at the tail end to try and tie it up. A couple of key goals at key moments were the difference and J.F. Berube made some huge saves for us at the right time.”
Hershey’s surge gained momentum and urgency as the third period wore on, but Berube came up big time and again. Berube made one of his best saves during a Bears power play, sliding across to get his right pad on a wide-open rebound chance from Dustin Gazley.
With 9:22 remaining, Berube denied a breakaway chance from Matt Watkins with a left pad save and then with just 1:23 remaining Berube stole a Cameron Schilling shot from the left circle out of the air with his catching glove.
Berube said he knew Hershey would fight back after Manchester outshot Hershey 12-2 in the first period. The Bears did not register their first shot until almost 13 minutes had passed in the game. Meanwhile, Grubauer was making big saves on the other end.
“He’s a good goalie, too, so we knew we wouldn’t score too many goals,” Berube said. “We just had to put as many pucks as we could on net and keep putting pressure on. It seems like it’s been the story of the last couple games. We haven’t been giving too many shots in the first 20 or 40 minutes. I knew I would need to sharp because they’re battling for a playoff spot.”
Grubauer made 34 saves for Hershey, including several in rapid succession as Manchester tried to pad a 2-1 lead it had owned since early in the second period.
“It seemed like we were getting some pretty great opportunities but we weren’t really putting them in spots where he wasn’t,” Morris said. “Everything was hitting him right in the logo and that tells that positionally he was very sound.”
The Monarchs opened the scoring at 9:19 of the first period with a power-play goal. James Livingston’s shot from the right boards hit traffic in front of the net and popped to a wide-open Zach O’Brien on the left side for an easy put-back into the open left side of the net.
Hershey tied the game 1:04 into the second period. Watkins led the rush for the Bears down the right side and sent a backhand shot on net that Berube kicked out. But the rebound went right to the tape of Julien Brouillette on the left for the rebound score.
The Monarchs reclaimed the lead with another power-play tally at 3:31 of the second. Linden Vey won the faceoff in the Hershey end, digging the puck back to defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk in the high slot for a one-time slap shot that beat Grubauer through a screen.
That would be all the Monarchs would need as the defense clamped down and Berube closed the door for his 25th win of the season.