Monarchs 3, Phantoms 2 12/15
At 10-14-1 and 21 points, they have the statistically worst record in the American Hockey League.
The cellar is not the idyllic place to be at any time. It's only a third of the way through the season and there's a lot of time to make up ground, but by the same token it's a third of the way through the year. At some point, they have to start stringing together some positive results. Terry Murray was pleased with the effort his team displayed in this one, save for the one breakdown at the end of the game.
Now, on to that breakdown:
Tyler Brown, who had a goal and an assist in the second period, blew a tire as he tried to advance the puck out of Adirondack's zone and it resulted in a turnover at the blue line. Then, the puck deflected off Brown and Mike Testwuide happened to be skating past Cal Heeter at the time of the shot, so the goalie never really had a chance to pick up the shot until it was too late. And that's your ballgame.
That's disappointing, because the fourth line actually had one of its better games of the season. Murray talks about them scoring ugly goals, but Testwuide scored on a top-shelf NHL shot from the left-wing circle. That was a pretty goal. And then they got the textbook ugly one on the power play when Brown redirected Danny Syvret's shot in. Testwuide thinks he shoved it in at the post.
Testwuide, who was a healthy scratch for four straight games and six of seven, said there's always extra motivation to have a good game once you're finally back in the lineup. Remember when he scored in his season debut against Rochester? It's been a recurring thing for him.
"You dream about that," he said. "Coming in the line-up, you think about that non-stop. 'When I get in the line-up, I have to do something. I have to to make an impression. I have to do the things that coach is telling me to do -- be strong on the pucks and recover pucks in the corner -- maybe chip in a few goals here or there.' It really feels good and I just have to keep going. Hopefully I stay in there."
Incidentally, Testwuide said this was the first game he played at center. Ever. In his life. I thought he did an admirable job -- heck, he basically scored twice -- but he said it's not something he's geared to do on a recurring basis. "I like the new looks. I like having the puck on my stick. Centermen have the puck a little bit more, but I'm not going to pump my tires. I'm a right winger, for sure."
You're probably wondering why Testwuide and Brown were on the power play. Friday, Murray wasn't happy with the way the Phantoms tried to make an ill-conceived pretty pass at the blue line that resulted in a shorthanded goal for Syracuse. The coach said he didn't want to use specific power play units because there were a lot of power play regulars out of the line-up -- Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson (more on him below) and Ben Holmstrom were all out injured -- so he said it was better to just stick with the lines he used five-on-five.
"We talked about it. I told them to go out and play with that same kind of mentality," Murray said. "Play five-on-five hockey, even though you're on the power play. Don't look to set up anything special. Just go play and get pucks to the net."
It worked. They got a goal.
But both Murray and Heeter thought this was an improvement over Friday night's game. They did better on puck retrievals. They moved their feet more. It's tough for them to not get a point out of this one, but that's happened a couple of times this season. It can't be a demoralizing thing for them.
"We need to make sure we keep that consistency level up and play well every night," Heeter said.
"We have a game here Wednesday so we get a couple days of work in, come back and hopefully bring that same level of energy."
Personnel update: Oliver Lauridsen was in for Gustafsson, who blocked a shot yesterday. Murray's comments on Gustafsson: "He's hurting, obviously, to not play. I anticipate he'll be ready to go for Wednesday. He blocked a bunch of shots and he's got some bones bruised and stuff like that. I anticipate he'll be up and running again soon."
Zac Rinaldo probably knew this game was on television. He dropped the glove with Richard Clune 53 seconds into the game and tried to fire the boys up. The equipment manager wound up having to wash some blood off of Rinaldo's nameplate. I asked him about the fight afterwards and said it looked like he was trying to set the tone: "There's a time and a place."
They're back on the ice Monday. Expect an update then.
Until next time,