MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs got their three-games-in-three-days weekend off to a good start with a 4-1 win over the Worcester Sharks in front of 3,741 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night.
The Monarchs got points from Cameron Burt and Mike Ullrich in their AHL debuts, and rookie goalie J.F. Berube made 22 saves in the win, which improved first-place Manchester to 12-3-3. The Monarchs will host Providence tonight at 7 and finish the weekend at Worcester (5-8-1) Sunday at 3 p.m.
"Give our guys credit, we played a hard game and we were on the puck most of the night," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "I thought any time we needed a filler, J.F. Berube was pretty solid for us. He continues to give us a chance and we provided the scoring."
Already leading 2-1 in the third, Manchester extended the advantage on a goal from Scott Sabourin at 7:21. Sabourin skated in on the right side and let a nasty wrist shot go that beat Harri Sateri high glove-side for Sabourin's third tally of the season.
Monarchs' leading scorer, Brandon Kozun, added to his points total with an insurance goal at 17:20. Kozun carried the puck in on the left side and sent a backhand pass to Nick Deslauriers for a one-timer from the right circle. Sateri kicked it out, but right to Kozun, who fired the puck home from a tough angle to make it 4-1. It was Kozun's fifth goal of the year and 17th point and closed the scoring for the night.
"I think we jumped on them early and kept building on it as the game went along," Morris said. "I don't think there was ever a doubt that we were on the puck. There weren't too many times other than when we were on the penalty kill that they were in control."
Manchester took a 2-1 lead with the only goal of the second period. With the puck on Ullrich's stick behind the Sharks' net, Hunter Bishop called for the puck in the slot. Ullrich tried to get the puck to him, but it hit Sateri's stick and banked into the net for the first AHL goal for Ullrich with his dad down from Calgary and watching in the stands.
Berube kept his team in the lead by stopping a penalty shot with 3:14 remaining in the second. Manchester's Andrew Campbell pulled Bracken Kearns down to elicit the call. Kearns skated in and tried to put the puck in stick-side, but a patient Berube made a blocker save.
"It's exactly what anybody would love to see," Morris said of Berube's play. "He's a young guy looking for an opportunity and he's made the most of it. I think he's winning over a lot of those guys in the locker room and certainly the staff and the fans."
Both teams scored on their first shots of the night, with Manchester drawing first blood. Moving the puck on the right wing, Sabourin found Sean Backman cruising into the slot and Backman skated in alone, roofing a backhand shot past Sateri's stick side at 3:54. Burt picked up his first AHL point with the secondary assist.
Worcester tied the game at the 7:22 mark when Riley Brace passed the puck from behind the net to Curt Gogol moving in on net untouched from the right circle. Gogol one-timed the puck through Berube's five-hole for the equalizer.