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Apr 05

Game Day Preview: Portland Pirates @ Manchester Monarchs- April 5, 2014

Photo Courtesy: Portland Pirates/Ron's Sports Photography

Photo Courtesy: Portland Pirates/Ron’s Sports Photography

Manchester, NH- The Portland Pirates take to the road today to begin a two-game weekend road swing when they play Game 10 of the VIP Cup Series, presented by VIP Tires & Service, against the Manchester Monarchs at Verizon Wireless Arena this afternoon.

The Pirates enter the game with two straight defeats and without a win in four of their last five games.  Portland’s last win was a week ago, a 7-5 victory over Manchester at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.  Chris Rawlings (1-2-0, 3.34, 0.887) made 23 saves in his first AHL start for the win that night.

In Portland’s last outing, Tobias Rieder (27-19-46) kept things going by scoring his third goal in his last two games, while Andy Miele (27-41-68) scored as well in a 3-2 defeat against the Hershey Bears in Lewiston. Jordan Martinook (14-14-28) assisted on both goals.  Louis Domingue (9-13-2, 3.48, 0.896, 1 SO) made 22 saves for Portland.  He’s been in net for Portland’s last two games and taken the loss both times.

Forward Pavel Laplante and defenseman Kevin Raine, signed to amateur tryout contracts by Portland last Tuesday, both made their professional debuts on Wednesday night.  Neither one factored in the scoring.

The Monarchs also come into the game with two straight losses.  The 7-5 defeat to Portland started the string that continued last night when Manchester was shut out for the second time this season in a 2-0 loss at home to the Hartford Wolf Pack, despite outshooting Hartford 37-16 on the night.  Hartford’s Dov Grumet-Morris stopped all 37 shots that he faced while Danny Kristo and Aaron Johnson scored against Jean-Francois Berube (26-16-2, 2.44, 0.911, 2 SO).  Berube stopped just 14 shots in the defeat.

The Monarchs have already locked up a playoff berth.  They are one of just four teams in the AHL to have done so at this point, along with the Springfield Falcons, Texas Stars, and Grand Rapids Griffins.  Manchester has led the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings almost exclusively since the season started.  But, the Monarchs’ two-game skid, coupled with a five-game winning streak by Springfield has seen the Falcons tie the Monrachs for the conference’s top spot heading into today’s game.

Manchester had three players make professional debuts last night.  Forward Michael Mersch, a 4th Round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2011 out of the University of Wisconsin, defenseman Kevin Gravel, a 5th Round draft pick of the Kings in 2010 out of St. Cloud State University, and fellow SCSU alum, forward Nic Dowd, picked in the 7th round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by Los Angeles, all played their first professional games last night.

Today will see a match-up of two of the three 2014 Hobey Baker Award finalists.  Portland’s Greg Carey and Manchester’s Dowd were both announced as one of the three finalists for the top NCAA Division I men’s hockey player for the season on Wednesday.

Carey (0-1-1 in six games) led the nation in assists (39) and was second in the nation in points (57) when his season at St. Lawrence University ended on March 15.  He’s now second in the nation in assists and third in the country in points with only the Frozen Four left to be played this Thursday and next Saturday.

Dowd scored 22-18-40 for the Huskies in his senior season.  The other finalists in now the national leader in goals (35), assists (42), and point (77), Boston College junior forward Johnny Gaudreau, a 4th Round draft pick of the Calgary Flames in 2011.  BC is one of this year’s Frozen Four teams, along with Union College, the University of Minnesota, and the University of North Dakota.  The Hobey Baker Award will be given on the middle day of the Frozen Four in Philadelphia, this coming Friday afternoon.

The Monarchs leading scorer this season is Jordan Weal (18-45-63).  Second leading scorer Linden Vey (12-32-44) is currently on recall with Los Angeles.  Manchester’s leading goal scorer is Brian O’Neill (25-18-43), who had two goals in the last meeting with Portland.

Manchester leads the season series 6-3 and will clinch the VIP Cup with one more win.  They are two more meetings after today, on April 9 in Lewiston and April 12 in Manchester.

Today’s game begins at 3:00 p.m.  Pirates Pregame coverage begins at 2:40 on the Portland Pirates Radio Network on AM 1310 News/Talk WLOB and here at portlandpiratesradio.com.

Today’s Match-Up:

Portland Pirates (NHL Affiliate: Phoenix Coyotes)

Overall Record: 24-34-2-8, 58 points

Atlantic Division Ranking: 5th

Eastern Conference Ranking: 14th

Road Record: 14-17-2-1

Power Play: 20.8% (8th)

Penalty Kill: 82.5% (tied-15th)

2013-14 Overall Record vs. Manchester: 3-3-1-2

2013-14 Record @ Manchester: 1-2-1-0

Manchester Monarchs (NHL Affiliate: Los Angeles Kings)

Overall Record: 43-19-2-6, 94 points

Atlantic Division Ranking: 1st

Eastern Conference Ranking: tied-1st

Home Record: 26-7-1-2

Power Play: 15.5% (24th)

Penalty Kill: 80.5% (tied-21st)

2013-14 Overall Record vs. Portland: 6-3-0-0

2013-14 Home Record vs. Portland: 3-1-0-0