Ryan Horvat and his Manchester Monarchs teammates haven’t had much sleep the last couple of days.
And who could blame them?
On Saturday, the Monarchs got goals from Adrian Kempe and Vincent LoVerde 3:07 apart to earn a 2-1 win over the Utica Comets to capture the Calder Cup.
“It’s been great celebrating,” Horvat said Monday afternoon. “We’re all so happy. This is a really close-knit group of guys and we couldn’t be happier to celebrate winning this together.”
Horvat said the close-knit brotherhood between he and his teammates is something that came very quickly at the start of the season, and grew as the post season continued.
“Everybody has been on the same page all year,” Horvat said. We all had one goal, and to accomplish it is really special. You spend all those days together playing and on the bus trips. It’s a good feeling to know you can trust and talk to them about anything.”
And that trust translated on the ice.
After finishing the season with the best record in the AHL at 50-17-6-3, the Los Angeles Kings farm team eliminated the Portland Pirates 3-2, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 4-1 and the Hartford Wolf Pack 4-0, before defeating the Comets in five games to capture the Calder Cup.
“We were in first place all year and every night we played the same way,” Horvat said. “We never changed the way we approached things. We all went home and made our own meals. We just put our noses to the grind stone and worked hard.
“We knew we had a great season and wanted that championship,” he said. “It’s something you work towards, just like any other team. But I’d say after the first round we thought it was possible. Going into the playoffs you never know what can happen. But after that first-round win, we all looked at each other and said we can do it. Everyone had a roll to play, and we all played that roll.”
For Horvat, it was a familiar one, playing the hard-nosed player that does the work along the boards. In nine playoff appearances, the rookie forward from Simcoe showed he belonged, scoring one goal.
“I was a grinder,” he said. “If I chipped in with points, that was great. At the beginning of the season I wanted to develop myself. They told me to introduce myself to the league and make myself known. I think I did a good job of that.”
Although his roll was at times limited, Horvat said he took it all in.
“I’ve learned so much this year,” Horvat said. “Some guys have played in the NHL, so you have those guys to look up to.
“I really learned how to be a pro this year,” he said. “Those guys show you how to carry yourself on and off the ice. People are watching you, and no matter where you are, you always have t act like a pro.”
He also said it was great that the Kings development team, which includes Waterford’s Nelson Emerson, would work closely with he and the others throughout the season and during the playoffs.
“They were around a lot, which was great,” Horvat said. “It was also nice to have Nelson around. When he was there, since you have that personal relationship, you’d be able to pick his brain. That made things much easier for me.”
They are all things Horvat said he will take with him, no matter where his career goes.
“I don’t know what’s happening yet, but that’s something I’ll worry about in a little bit,” Horvat said. “Right now I just want to soak this in. It’s been an incredible run. You always want to play hockey into June, and to do it two years in a row – last season at the Memorial Cup with the Guelph Storm –is a great accomplishment. Last year we came so close but couldn’t do it. I’m just glad we were able to finish it off and win it this time around.”
While Horvat doesn’t know where he’ll land next season, the Monarchs are in moving mode.
The Kings decided to move their AHL affiliate to Ontario, CA, and become the Ontario Reign, while Manchester will still be called the Monarchs, but will be an ECHL team next season.
“I’m just glad we were able to win a championship for Manchester,” Horvat said. “The city and the fans have been great. They deserve to celebrate this as well.”