|The AHL's best goaltender will lead the Monarchs vs. Portland.
The Manchester Monarchs recorded 95 points (43-28-3-6) during the 2009-10 regular season while the Portland Pirates tallied 101 points (45-24-7-4). Both teams have fought their way into the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs and are prepared to battle each other in the Atlantic Division Semifinals.
"Our games throughout the regular season were all hard fought battles," Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris comments on the season’s match-ups against Portland. "My expectations are that this series is going to be similar. If our last game is any indication of the intensity, then it should be a great series. Games that we’ve played against them have mostly been decided by making the right play at the critical time."
Coaching the Pirates since 2005, Kevin Dineen has led Portland to the playoffs four out of his five seasons as head coach. In these last five seasons, the Monarchs have collected a record of 22-19-2-7 against the Pirates and Portland is 28-18-3-1 against Manchester. This is the first playoff match-up between these two teams in the Monarchs franchise history.
In regards to this season, Dineen comments, "We had a great series against the Monarchs this year. Both teams battled hard all year. We came out on top in some close one goal games. Both teams played hard throughout the year and we expect more of the same in this series."
This season, the Monarchs were 3-4-0-3 versus the Pirates, who went 7-2-1-0 against Manchester.
"While the games won were in our advantage, the majority of the games were decided by one goal," Pirates right winger Kyle Rank explains. "The teams match up well and we expect a long, hard-fought series."
The Monarchs are led by Captain Drew Bagnall who has been the most vocal component of the locker room this season. His physical presence against the Pirates is evident as he leads Manchester in penalty minutes against Portland with 23 minutes.
"I think that they have a lot of speed; they have a lot of guys who are really skilled," explains Bagnall. "Our goal, or the way that we have to play in order to win, is to physically impose our will on them and just kind of grind it out and make it a series that’s a battle that’s won on the boards and try to keep them away from having that open ice and free reeling space. We have to make it more contact, more body and just try to physically intimidate them."
The Pirates are going to be tough competition in the first round of the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs for the Monarchs but through 10 match-ups this season, Coach Morris and his team knows what to expect.
"They’ve got a nice blend of experience and youth," says Morris regarding Portland’s players. "They’re a team that we need to be very disciplined against in that they have the fire power to execute on a power play. They seem to be a team that generates a lot of momentum and it’s imperative that we play a sound, structural game."
"We’re extremely fortunate to have one of the best goalies in the American Hockey League in Jonathan Bernier. We’ve had strong performances from Jeff Zatkoff and J.F. Berube. I like to think that we have the upper hand in that capacity," Morris explains regarding the team’s goaltenders.
Commenting on the comparison of forwards and defensemen, Morris says, "I think defensively we’re very similar, although they’ve got more experience on the blueline. Up front, I think that they have some exceptionally quick forwards that can finish. I think from a depths standpoint, we’ve been able to play four lines against them, but we’re going to have to be mindful of (Mark) Mancari (28-46=74), their top scorer, and where he is on the ice at any given moment."