Monarchs' home win streak ends
The Monarchs' Chris Cloud gets checked off the puck by St John's Icecaps defender Brett Festerling. (BRUCE TAYLOR / UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs had their eight-game home winning streak snapped by St. John's on Friday night as the IceCaps prevailed, 4-2, in front of 4,031 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena.
The win pulled St. John's (16-7-4, 36 points) even with Manchester (17-11-2, 36) at the top of the Atlantic Division. The Monarchs are off tonight and will host Worcester Sunday at 3 p.m. in the final game before the Christmas break.
Manchester led 2-1 in the second period before falling behind 3-2. The Monarchs skated a strong third period, pumping 14 shots on veteran NHL netminder David Aebischer, but to no avail.
“The effort was there. We had plenty of chances to score goals,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “It was one of those games that was right there to win and we didn't take advantage of it.”
Manchester pressured throughout the final 20:00. David Meckler had a shorthanded chance one-on-one with Aebischer with 16:47 remaining but Aebischer made a sparkling glove save.
Less than a minute later, Patrick Mullen left the penalty box and broke in on Aebischer, ripping a hard shot from the right circle that beat Aebischer but rang off the far post. Then with just over 7:00 remaining, Thomas Hickey eluded several defenders to get in close but a sprawling Aebischer made the save.
“You could tell we were energized in the third and got chance after chance and their goalie made some big saves,” Hickey said. “That's hockey, you're not going to get all those.”
The IceCaps closed out the win with an empty-net goal from Ben Maxwell with two seconds remaining. St. John's is undefeated in regulation time on the road this season.
“I was encouraged by our effort to try and tie it up,” Morris said. “The game was right there for us had we found a way to bury one.”
St. John's struck first in the game, taking a 1-0 lead at 5:39 of the first period on a goal from Patrice Cormier. The puck was played toward the Manchester net and goalie Martin Jones used his stick to swat it away but the puck went off Hickey and into the net.
Manchester tied the game at 1-1 at 10:53. A turnover in the Monarchs' end sent Brandon Kozun streaking down the left wing boards. Kozun fired a head-man pass across to Marc-Andre Cliche and the captain finished the play with a sharp wrist shot under the crossbar.
The Monarchs had a chance to take the lead with 3:01 remaining in the first. Hooked from behind on a shorthanded breakaway bid, Dwight King was awarded a penalty shot. King fired his shot wide of the net and the score remained locked at 1-1 after one.
Stefan Legein gave Manchester a 2-1 lead at 4:37 of the second period. Ray Kaunisto sent the puck toward the net from the right side and Legein tipped it in from the slot for his third goal of the season.
St. John's tied the game a little more than 2:00 later. Manchester defenseman Andrew Campbell tried to swat a flying puck out of the zone, but Jason King kept it in and sent the puck down low to an all-alone Kenndal McArdle in front. McArdle spun and roofed a backhand shot past Jones.
The IceCaps took a 3-2 lead at 10:58 of the second, cashing in on a power play. Paul Postma's shot from the high slot was tipped in front by Cormier and the puck deflected past Jones stick-side.
“Our second period was our troublesome spot,” Morris said. “The undisciplined penalties and the time that we had put some of our top (penalty) killers out there erased any type of momentum that we had created up until that point.”