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October 06. 2012 7:58PM

Ian Clark's On Hockey: Jones is finally top dog in net for Monarchs

GOFFSTOWN -- Entering his third year with the Manchester Monarchs, Martin Jones finally sees a net with his name on it and his alone.

The 22-year-old Jones split the goaltending duties in Manchester over the past two seasons. But Jeff Zatkoff has moved on, signing with the Pittsburgh organization. Jones, who was an all-star as a rookie two seasons ago, is the clear No. 1 goalie in Manchester now but is taking nothing for granted.

“It doesn’t really change my mindset coming in. I came in to work hard and earn as much playing time as I can,” Jones said. “That’s the key for me, I have to earn it. Nothing’s going to be handed to me. I’ve got to make sure I come ready to play every day.”

The natural competitive nature of an athlete means that goalies want to be the top dog and Jones is excited for that chance.

“Me and Zats had a good relationship, but as a goaltender, you want to play as much as you can,” Jones said. “I want to play as many games as I can this year and the only way to do that is to play well when I get the chance.”

With no Los Angeles Kings training camp to sharpen his skills due to the NHL lockout, Jones had to alter his workout in the offseason but managed to find willing shooters.

“There’s usually some skates going on in Vancouver where I’m from,” Jones said. “There’s always a group of pro guys or junior guys that want to get out and skate so it’s not too hard to convince them to let a goalie out there.”

Jones played well in a 2-0 exhibition win over Bridgeport Friday night, stopping all nine shots he saw in 30:30 of action. The Monarchs play at Portland today at 3 p.m. and host the Pirates Monday at 3 p.m. at ICEnter in Salem.

While, Jones has the top slot, the No. 2 position has some question marks to sort out. Rookie J.F. Berube played mop up on Friday (stopping all eight shots he saw) and was slated to split time with Peter Mannino today at Portland.

Berube has a solid season of ECHL experience under his belt but might not be ready for the AHL game yet. The 21-year-old Berube knows he has to prove he’s capable of being the backup at this level.

“I’ve worked out a lot this summer to get prepared for this season. There is a door open for me and it’s in my hands to take it,” Berube said. “I think it’s been going great so far. I control what I can control and it stays a coach’s decision at the end.”

Mannino, meanwhile, was invited to camp by Monarchs general manager Ron Hextall as an insurance policy in case Berube needs more time in the ECHL.

Mannino has the look of a journeyman, wearing retro brown goalie gear (no team colors to worry about) and a Canadian-themed mask. Mannino is with his 10th professional team in the past four years (including six NHL games).

“In pro hockey you learn quickly that you never know (what’s going to happen). But it’s an opportunity and they wanted to see me out here and I just want to show them what I have and what I can bring to the team if that’s what they want to go with,” Mannino said. “I’m happy to have the opportunity. I played Manchester a few times last year and I’m familiar with the team and staff members. I’m excited to be here and hopefully be a part of it.”

Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said he plans to play Jones for the full game on Monday in Salem. That leaves today’s game looming large for Berube and Mannino.

“We want to give us much as ice as we can to those two to feel them out. We’ve got to see what Peter Mannino can do an Berube will get a piece of (today’s game) too,” Morris said. “I thought Berube, when he was called on, was in the right place at the right time (Friday). It’s good to see him have some success early.”

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PELLERIN RETURNS: Former Monarchs assistant coach Scott Pellerin returned to New Hampshire Friday as head coach of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Several Monarchs players skated across the ice after the game to shake Pellerin’s hand, a gesture he said meant a lot to him and showed the class of the Manchester players.

Pellerin has it tougher than many first-time head coaches, having to mold his team without the benefit of a parent club (in this case the New York Islanders) having had three weeks of training camp to get their feet wet.

A Hobey Baker award winner at the University of Maine, Pellerin said fellow Black Bears Garth Snow (Islanders general manager) and Jack Capuano (Islanders coach) have given him space to take control of his team.

“It’s been a unique situation and something I hadn’t planned on to be honest when this happened,” Pellerin said. “We’ve been having great support from our staff at the Islanders and we’ve been doing our camp in Long Island. I have a lot of support there and Garth has been great to me to let me run my camp. I’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

Pellerin and his Sound Tigers will visit Manchester for the first time in the regular season on Nov. 9.

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Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at iclark@unionleader.com.

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