MANCHESTER - Forced into extensive action, the new kids did just fine.
Three members of the Manchester Monarchs made their debuts with the team in Friday night's 4-1 win over Worcester, with the two making their overall AHL debuts registering points in the game.
Forwards A.J. Gale (who played four games with Erie in the AHL last season), Cameron Burt and Mike Ullrich were all signed last week and all three were thrown into action for Manchester (12-3-3), which hosted Providence last night and plays at Worcester today at 3 p.m.
"You've got to be happy with that," Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said of the trio's debut. "One scores a goal, the other guys were out there playing just like they belong here. It's what you would hope for. I thought they added depth and with all the penalty kills there for the extended time we were in the box, we had to use a lot of our personnel and to have those fresh legs there meant a lot to us."
Ullrich was the one who notched the goal, banking the puck off goaltender Harri Sateri's stick from behind the cage for the eventual game-winner. It came with his dad, Brian, in the stands after he made a quick detour from his home in Calgary down to Orlanda (where Ullrich was playing in the ECHL) and then up to Manchester.
Ullrich played with fellow Monarch Hunter Bishop with Vernon of the BCHL from 2005 to 2007 and the two have been reunited on a line in Manchester. It was Bishop whom Ullrich was trying to get the puck to when his goal went in.
"Having Hunter here and having some chemistry with him in the past made it easier," Ullrich said. "I made a few mistakes early, I felt, but also got some chances early. I let it roll off my back and having a solid line to play with helped me step in and get the butterflies out in practice."
Burt had the other point for the newcomers on Friday, notching an assist on Sean Backman's first period goal. Burt was with the Monarchs in camp this season before being assigned to Ontario of the ECHL.
"I've been waiting for this game for a few years now," Burt said of his pro debut. "It's good to get out there and play with a bunch of good guys and I was fortunate enough to get an assist. I was trying to focus on my team defense there and I think I did pretty well with it."
Gale didn't make the score sheet, but had a strong game playing alongside Burt and Russian rookie Maxim Kitsyn. With Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey and Tanner Pearson called up to Los Angeles and Brian O'Neill out with an injury, the young players saw plenty of ice time to jump right into action and not have to wait around.
"If you're sitting on the bench in any league, it's always hard. You've got to find a way to stay in it," Gale said. "All four lines rolled well (Friday), not many penalties on both sides so it was nice to get some ice time and hopefully I can do some more with it."
Morris told the new recruits to play aggressively and to let their instincts guide them.
"Coach pulled us aside this morning and said he'd rather see us make mistakes going full-speed (rather) than being tentative," Ullrich said. "It's easier stepping in and getting some ice time and feeling the play."
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BERUBE ALL THE WAY: With three games in as many days, the preferred course of action would be to give your starting goalie one of those games off.
That won't be the case for Manchester rookie J.F. Berube. With Martin Jones called up to L.A. through the next month as Jonathan Quick recovers from a groin injury, Berube is the main man. Rookie Aaron Dell is untested and unlikely see the crease.
Berube was 3-2-0 with a 2.40 goals against average after Friday's win.
"He's gained a lot of strength and this weekend will be a great test for him," Morris said. "If he can continue to do what he's been doing over a three-game period and keep that focus and concentration, that's exactly what we're looking for."
After Sunday's trip to Worcester the Monarchs are off until Friday when they host Springfield.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.