After a two-day break for Thanksgiving, the Manchester Monarchs are back to work in a battle of first-place teams.
Atlantic Division-leading Manchester (13-3-4) will host Northeast Division leader Springfield (13-3-1) tonight at Verizon Wireless Arena at 7. The Monarchs will then travel to Hartford Saturday and Bridgeport Sunday.
Monarchs head coach Mark Morris gave the team Wednesday and Thursday off. After a three-games-in-three-days weekend last week and another one coming up, time off is valuable.
“We’ve had a pretty full schedule this past weekend and this will give us a chance to let some bumps and bruises heal and recharge the batteries,” Morris said. “I think that rest is just as important as work. This group has worked pretty hard under some pretty precarious situations.”
With the top line of Tanner Pearson, Tyler Toffoli and Linden Vey called up to Los Angeles along with starting goalie Martin Jones, the Monarchs have been bringing in young players for tryouts.
The results were solid last week as Manchester took five out of a possible six points on the weekend with two wins and a shootout loss.
“There’s a lot of flux in our personnel and I think that looking at having so many pro tryouts come into the picture, we’ve fared pretty well,” Morris said. “Hopefully we can build on our early success and carry that through from this point forward.”
Despite the strong showing last time out, the team could have made it a clean sweep, Morris said. A 3-2 shootout loss on Sunday in Worcester was one Morris felt the team should have had if the players’ conditioning was better.
“I thought we learned a hard lesson this past weekend in game three,” Morris said. “We really didn’t have our legs and a lot of that is mental. I think the inexperience was pretty glaring on Sunday afternoon. There wasn’t much life left in us and it’s something that we addressed (Tuesday) in practice.”
Morris said that part of the challenge with a young team is to make sure the players are being responsible away from the rink.
“A big part of being able to handle it is being mentally ready for the grind of three-in-three and also to make sure you’ve got enough fuel in your body,” Morris said. “Be aware of how you fuel it throughout the week. If you don’t eat right and get the proper rest it comes back to haunt you if you haven’t taken care of yourself.”
After this weekend, Manchester plays three-game weekends for the following two weekends, as well.