Monarchs lose, fume at hit
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs suffered a franchise-record sixth straight loss Sunday and also lost rookie Robbie Czarnik indefinitely with an injury.
Manchester fell to Portland, 4-1, in front of 5,389 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena. Czarnik left the ice on a stretcher 3:50 into the third period after an illegal hit to the head by Portland captain Dean Arsene.
With Portland ahead 2-1, Czarnik was coming across the Pirates blue line and Arsene caught him with his head down, crunching him with a check that may have included contact with Arsene’s elbow. Czarnik went down hard, losing his helmet and lying motionless on the ice.
“I thought that was a real cheap hit. I really do. That was totally uncalled for,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “That’s the type of stuff you’ve got to get out of hockey. A guy that was looking the other way … hopefully it’s not too long an injury. But when a guy is blue on the ice it really gets under your skin.”
Czarnik was moving his arms when he was carted off the ice. He was taken to Elliott Hospital for testing and his condition was not immediately known following the game. Czarnik has been playing well as of late and has five goals and nine assists in 24 games.
Arsene was ejected and the Monarchs were given a five-minute power play, but could not capitalize and the game slipped away as Portland scored a power-play goal at 18:41. David Rundblad walked into the left circle and snapped a sharp wrist shot under the bar to beat Jeff Zatkoff glove-side.
An empty net goal from Brett MacLean in the final 30 seconds put the game away for the Pirates (18-16-5). The Monarchs fell to 21-18-2 and dropped into third place in the Atlantic Division with Worcester’s win over Syracuse. Manchester’s previous franchise record of five consecutive losses came earlier this season.
“We had our chances to score. They’re a good team,” Morris said of Portland. “They’re big, they’re physical and they’ve got a lot of veterans. We got chasing our tail toward the tail end but we had some moments where we had glorious chances and we just didn’t capitalize.”
The Pirates had to make a change in goaltenders just over five minutes into the game when starter Curtis McElhinney went down with an injury. McElhenney stayed down after stretching out to make a save and was helped off the ice as Justin Pogge came in.
Portland took a 1-0 lead at 15:45 of the first on a Brock Trotter goal. A turnover at the Monarchs blue line sent Trotter racing the other way and he beat Nick Deslauriers to the puck and moved in alone, stuffing the puck past the left pad of Zatkoff and in.
Manchester tied the game at 2:25 of the second period on rookie Deslauriers’ first career pro goal. Working the power play, the Monarchs moved the puck well and Thomas Hickey fed Deslauriers at the high right point for a one-timer slap shot that beat Pogge low.
“It feels good, but it’s always better when you win,” said Deslauriers of his first goal. “I wish it was a win.”
The tie was short-lived as Portland came right back to take the lead just under two minutes later. Matt Watkins held the puck in at the Manchester blue line and chipped it along the right wing boards to Patrick O’Sullivan. The former Monarch moved in on Zatkoff and scored with a shot inside the far post for the 2-1 lead after two periods.
The Monarchs will have four days off to regroup, but it won’t get any easier as the schedule ahead is challenging. Manchester plays at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Friday and then at Hershey Saturday and Sunday in the first half of a stretch of six games in nine days.