The Monarchs were well aware of the raucous environment that would await them at the intimate Utica Memorial Auditorium.
“Every bit so, yeah,” Head Coach Mike Stothers said. “A few of us had to go up here for the All-Star Game and they were that loud during the skills competition. They followed it up with the same kind of boisterousness in the game. So, we knew what to expect.”
What they hadn’t planned for was an injury to League MVP Brian O’Neill and 37-game winner J-F Berube in the first period. Manchester fell behind 2-0, and while Patrik Bartosak made 27 saves on 29 shots and 18-year-old rookie Adrian Kempe scored two goals in an encouraging effort that saw the visitors seize control of the game late in the second period, they still fell 3-2 to the Comets in Game 3 of the Calder Cup Final. The Monarchs, who have a two-games-to-one series lead, will return to the ice Friday evening for Game 4. As this is playoff hockey, no injury information on Berube and O’Neill was available after the game.
Justin Auger, on whether this series is more physical than previous series:
I think everyone’s just taking it really seriously, and both teams love to compete. I think we’re both putting it all on the line here.
Auger, on how losing two players early affected the group:
Obviously you lose a guy like Oney and a goalie like Roubs, you need other guys to step up. A great example of that is Kempe tonight. He stepped up, scored two goals for us, and he’s a big contributor, and Barto stepped in there and had a great game. That’s really what you need to do in the playoffs, and I think we did a great job there.
Auger, on how this run compares to his Memorial Cup run last year:
It’s really similar. Two great teams, and just great teams to play for. Everyone meshes together, and it’s just a lot of fun to be a part of.
Auger, on the Monarchs’ response to early challenges:
Obviously coming in here, we knew it was going to be a tough building. I think it was even louder than a lot of people expected. You know, we knew they were going to push right off the bat. We weathered it pretty good, and then we came out with a push of our own. I think the guys played great. We really stepped up there, and a lot more will come on Friday.