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October 07. 2011 11:12PM

Cliche lifts Monarchs in season opener

Andrei Loktionov and Marc-Andre Cliche celebrate after Cliche scores in the second period of the Monarchs' season opener at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester Friday night. (MARK BOLTON / UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — The Springfield Falcons arrived late, a theme that played out for the rest of opening night as the Manchester Monarchs claimed a 5-2 win in front of 6,266 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday.

Monarchs captain Marc-Andre Cliche recorded a natural hat trick as Manchester got up 5-0 and never looked back. The game was delayed 50 minutes because the Falcons' team bus was stuck in traffic.

Andrei Loktionov assisted on all three Cliche goals and Martin Jones made 23 saves in net for the Monarchs, who host St. Johns's tonight at 7 in the first-ever visit from the new Winnipeg affiliate.

“For the first game of the year, opening night, I think the guys put on a pretty good show,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “Marc-Andre Cliche had the hot stick and Jonesy was good in the pipes. We had good penalty killing and our power play moved the puck pretty well.”

The Monarchs took a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal from Justin Azevedo at 9:57 of the first period. Patrick Mullen sent Azevedo into the zone with a high pass that Azevedo caught and dropped to his stick before breaking in alone and beating goalie Paul Dainton five-hole.

Manchester made it 2-0 at 12:20 on Cliche's first goal. Jordan Nolan carried in on the right wing boards and left a drop pass for Loktionov in the slot. Loktionov fed a pass to Cliche on the left for a one-timer past Dainton.

Cliche wasted no time getting No. 2, scoring 14 seconds into the second period. Cliche streaked down the right side and let loose a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Dainton low for the 3-0 lead.

The hat trick goal came at 6:45, again assisted by Loktionov, who threw the puck toward the net for Cliche to redirect from the low slot to make it 4-0. It was the first Monarchs hat trick since Dwight King notched one in February of this year.

“Getting that first one, I just one-timed the puck and it went in and I felt like it was going to be one of those nights,” Cliche said. “It was one of those nights where everything goes in and our line was clicking.”

David Meckler made it 5-0 at 16:43, finishing with a one-timer from the right side on a two-on-one feed from Ray Kaunisto.

Springfield finally broke through at 18:11 on an Alexandre Giroux goal. A scramble around the net led to a Martin St. Pierre pass from the goal line to Giroux in the right circle for a quick snap shot that beat Jones five-hole to make it 5-1.

The Falcons cut the lead to 5-2 at the 1:02 mark of the third period on a Cody Bass goal. John Moore passed from deep on the left side to find Bass streaking into the slot for a tip-shot that beat Jones high glove side.

Springfield continued to press late, skating a five-on-three power play for 40 seconds midway through the third period but Jones remained strong and kept the comeback bid only a dream.

“We knew that they were going to have a push at some point,” Jones said. “We knew they had lots of talent and we knew we had to stay sharp and not let off the gas. We did a good job staying composed when they did come back and came out with a win.”

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