|Monarchs netminder Jonathan Bernier finished the 2009-10 regular season with a record of 30-21-6, a goals-against-average of 2.03 and a .936 save percentage. His goals-against-average finished second overall in the American Hockey League and his save percentage lead the league. |
The Manchester Monarchs sat atop the Atlantic Division for nearly four months before a lull in early February broke the standings wide open and the Worcester Sharks took advantage of the opportunity to take over first place. It was on Valentine’s Day that the Sharks took control of the division lead and never looked back. Worcester may have had the upper hand in the series during the regular season with a record of 5-2-0-1 against Manchester but it’s the Monarchs that look to break the Sharks heart and be the sweethearts of the series.
As the Monarchs come off a four-game sweep of the Portland Pirates in the Atlantic Division Semifinals, the confidence in the locker is high but the players and coaches know that it is not going to be an easy series against the Sharks.
"I suspect it’s going to be a great series," explains Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. "Both teams are playing well right now and it should be a great test. They’re a deep team with strong goaltending. Worcester is very well coached and they are a team that puts a lot of pressure on you. Checking and defensively, they do a good job of supporting the puck, and they have a nice blend of scorers and gritty players, seasoned veterans that know how to play in the post-season."
Monarchs center and alternate captain Marc-Andre Cliche
led his team in scoring against the Sharks during the regular season with six points (3-3=6) and echoes Coach Morris’ sentiments, "I think they’re a pretty hard-working team. We haven’t played them in a while and they have a really, really fast team and are really physical so I think we’re going to have to be ready. I think it’s going to be a way different series than it was against Portland."
Worcester is not taking the Monarchs or the series lightly either.
"We have to be ready for the Monarchs speed," says Sharks Head Coach Roy Sommer. "It is going to be a close series. Manchester is a team where if you have a weak link in any part of your line-up, it’s going to be exposed."
One major focus of the series is going to be the goaltending for both teams. Monarchs netminder Jonathan Bernier
finished the 2009-10 regular season with a record of 30-21-6, a goals-against-average of 2.03 and a .936 save percentage. His goals-against-average finished second overall in the American Hockey League and his save percentage lead the league. Bernier’s outstanding play earned him the Aldege "Baz" Bastien Memorial Award for the league’s outstanding goaltender.
Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock appeared in a league-high 61 games this season and collected a record of 39-19-2. His 39 wins led the AHL and he posted a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.
"I am looking forward to playing against Bernier and use it as a measuring tool," says Stalock. "He is one of the best goaltenders in the AHL for a reason. We learned a lot in the first series against the Devils and look to build on that experience versus the Monarchs. It should be a great series."
The winner of this series between Manchester and Worcester will face either the Hershey Bears or the Albany River Rats in the 2010 Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final. The Sharks lead the series, 1-0 with Game No. 2 scheduled for Wednesday night.