NORFOLK, VA – Goaltender Jonathan Bernier
stopped 41 shots to backstop the Manchester Monarchs to a 2-1 victory over the Norfolk Admirals in front of 4,002 fans at the Norfolk Scope on Friday night.
Manchester (2-0-0-0) is tied with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (2-0-0-0) for first place in the Atlantic Division with four points. Norfolk (0-2-0-0) is tied with the Syracuse Crunch (0-2-0-0) for sixth place in the East Division with zero points.
"Jonathan Bernier stood on his head for us," explained Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. "He was very strong in net and we had two timely goals from (Drew) Bagnall and (Oscar) Moller.
"It came right down to the buzzer and it was a real character win for us. Last season, we seemed to always find a way to a different fate. It was encouraging to see our guys hunker down and battle to the end to earn two points."
Monarchs center Oscar Moller put the puck in the net for his first tally of the season at 13:43 of the final frame to put Manchester ahead for good. Moller skated into the Admirals zone racing with Norfolk defenseman Matt Lashoff to the puck. The centerman picked it up first and protected it from the defender as they approached the net. Once in the slot, Moller snapped a wrist shot that snuck under goaltender Riku Helenius’ left arm for the eventual game-winning goal. Defenseman Drew Bagnall and right wing Scott Parse assisted on Moller’s goal. All three players picked up two points each in the game.
The Monarchs took the early lead with Bagnall’s first goal of the season at 1:20 of the opening frame. Parse attempted a backhander from the right doorstep of Norfolk’s net but the puck slid wide of the cage. Moller picked up the loose puck, skated behind the net and fed a pass into the left face-off circle. Bagnall connected with the puck to the right of the dot and ripped a one-timer past Helenius for the early lead.
"Bernier was a big reason for our success tonight," said Morris. "And Bagnall had the best game of his career. It was a big goal for us to get on the scoreboard."
Bagnall’s goal was followed by a scoreless 39 minutes of play that was filled with a heavy-weight dual between Monarchs right wing Kevin Westgarth and Admirals left wing Mitch Fritz, some flared tempers between Manchester’s defenseman Joe Piskula and Norfolk’s Ryan Craig, and a little retaliation as Parse was roughed up by Admirals defenseman Vladimir Mihalik after getting a little too close to their goaltender.
Norfolk thought they had tied the game at 1-1 halfway through the third period when defenseman Mike Lundin put the puck in the net behind Bernier. Unfortunately for the Admirals, referee Shaun Davis waved off the goal due to a delayed off-sides call. The score remained 1-0 in the Monarchs favor.
The Admirals put up a good fight at the end of the game and brought the score to within one goal when right wing Brandon Bochenski lit the lamp for his first tally of the season at 16:02 of the third period to put Norfolk on the board. Crashing the net with bodies falling in the crease, Bochenski squeezed his way out of the pile-up and passed the puck to the right point where Lundin was positioned. The defenseman fed the puck back down to Bochenski in the bottom of the right face-off circle for a quick wrister into the top of left corner of the net behind Bernier. Center Blair Jones picked up an assist on Norfolk’s lone goal of the game.
"Parse played a real inspirational game tonight," said Morris. "He worked hard in the corners and was an integral member of our top line tonight. Ice conditions made it a real choppy game and there were not a whole lot of pucks that sat down. There were a lot of near misses for and against. We came out on top and I’m grateful we did."
Bernier (2-0-0) earned the No. 1 star of the game and his second win of the season with 41 saves on 42 shots. Helenius (0-1-0) took the loss with 21 saves.
Manchester went 0-for-4 on the power play. Norfolk was 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
Notables: The Monarchs have won their first two games of the season for the second time in team history; the first time came when the team won their first seven games in the 2004-05 season…Defenseman Drew Bagnall ended his scoreless streak of 102 games; his last and only other goal in a Monarchs uniform came on February 1, 2008 against Portland and it was scored shorthanded and into an empty net…Bagnall (1-3=4) is also tied for second place with center Andrei Loktionov (3-1=4) in scoring on the Monarchs with four points each…Loktionov leads the Monarchs in goals (three) and plus/minus (plus-6)…Right wing Scott Parse leads the Monarchs with five points, all assists…Goaltender Jonathan Bernier is one of three goaltenders in the AHL to have a 2-0-0 record…Bernier is ranked eighth in the league with a 2.00 goals-against-average.