Ian Clark's On Hockey: Monarchs make it a morning with 10 a.m. start
And it's not just the early morning faceoff for "Education Day" in which thousands of schoolchildren will be in the building. The other wrinkle is that Phantoms are coached by Terry Murray, the former coach of Manchester's parent club, the Los Angeles Kings.
That means not only did Monarchs head coach Mark Morris work with Murray during Kings camps, but the former systems played in Manchester were Murray's as well.
"Terry Murray's teams are very good defensively. Hopefully we'll remember some of his attributes as a coach and the things we did with him when we worked with him in the past," Morris said. "Hopefully that will work to our advantage to pick up on a few things that we're familiar with."
The Phantoms are 5-6-0 for fourth place in the Northeast Division. Manchester comes in at 7-3-1 for first place in the Atlantic.
A major factor in Manchester's early success has been goaltender Martin Jones, who sports a 6-3-1 record with three shutouts and a goals-against average of 1.79. Backup Peter Mannino has a win in his lone start.
"He's played very well for us," Morris said of Jones. "That's been the game plan from the get-go, to have him handle most of the games. I think he's probably more comfortable now when he's not in there (in knowing) Peter is capable of playing good, solid hockey."
Jones attributes his strong start to the players in front of him.
"My play kind of goes as the team goes," Jones said. "I think we feed off each other and when they play solid defensively it makes my job easier and I'm able to play better."
Jones has also settled into the No. 1 role nicely after two seasons of splitting the net duties with Jeff Zatkoff.
"It's easy when you're playing lots of games and getting in the rhythm of things," Jones said. "The last few years I got to play a fair amount of games but when you know you have that confidence that you're going to be in the net a lot, it definitely helps. It's easy to forget the bad ones when you know you're going to get a chance right back at it."
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WITH long-term injuries to defensemen Andrew Campbell and David Kolomatis, the Monarchs brought Vincent LoVerde in from Ontario of the ECHL. LoVerde, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound Chicago native, made his AHL debut in Saturday's 3-0 win over Providence.
"I was very impressed," Morris said. "His composure and decision-making was very solid. He didn't seem to get rattled, he was positionally sound, his passes were good. He's a thick-bodied guy and he doesn't get shoved around. He just looked very responsible."
LoVerde has played 76 games with Ontario last season and this one, scoring nine goals with 21 assists. He said he was happy with his debut and felt comfortable, coming in knowing Mannino and Stefan Legein.
"I felt good. It's a good group of guys here and they really made me feel comfortable on and off the ice," LoVerde said. "It made for a pretty easy transition. I talked a lot on the ice and off the ice, which really helped."
LoVerde said he focused on keeping his game simple and is excited by this opportunity.
"Make a good first pass. Be strong defensively and focus on the D zone first," LoVerde said. "It's a great opportunity any time you get a chance in the AHL. Especially with this organization. I've just got to make the most of it."
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Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org...