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January 17. 2012 10:02PM

On Hockey: Monarchs thinking positive


Monarchs coach Mark Morris looks up at the scoreboard late in Sunday's loss to the Portland Pirates 
GOFFSTOWN -- The Manchester Monarchs can only grow from the current rough patch of road they find themselves on.

They have no choice, really.

“It's how we respond to the adversity that we're facing right now that's going to plant the seeds for future growth,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “Guys are getting opportunities because of these crazy scenarios that are unfolding. Hopefully, in the long haul it proves to be a positive thing.”

Manchester has lost a franchise-high six games in a row and has dropped from first place to third place in the Atlantic Division at 21-18-2. Things don't get any easier as the Monarchs play at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and then at Hershey Friday and Saturday in the first half of a six-games-in-nine-days span.

A slew of injuries has forced young players into larger roles and with youth comes grow

“We've got to find a way to get these guys to make the right play at the right time without fumbling pucks and be disciplined,” Morris said. “The costly errors we've made in the six-game span are things that, had we made the plays we'd be still riding in the top spot. These are some of the hurdles that youthful teams have to learn.”

“You can sulk about it or you can do something about it. We're not in the business of treating these guys like kids. We've got to have them grow up in a hurry.”

Captain Marc-Andre Cliche and alternate captains Andrew “Soupy” Campbell and Thomas Hickey have taken on a lot of the burden to try and turn things around.

“I was talking with Soupy and Hicks and we take a lot of pressure on our shoulders because we feel like maybe we're not doing things right, not preparing the team right,” Cliche said. “I think the (important) part of us is to come to practice and stay positive and give the guys energy and be talking out there. Tomorrow's another day.”

Morris and assistant coach Scott Pellerin rely on Cliche to act as another set of coaching eyes on the ice.

“We share a lot of information about the team and address the sensitive issues that make you successful – or not – and we talk about personnel and line combinations and which guys blend well,” Morris said. “I think it's important that you have a type of relationship between coaches and captains where you respect what they say because ultimately they have to take ownership. Without that input you're not really getting the most out of your guys. They're just an extension of us and we're an extension of them. It's a two-way street.”

Rookie Robbie Czarnik is sidelined for at least a week as his condition is monitored following the illegal hit to the head he suffered on a check from Dean Arsene in Sunday's loss to Portland. (Arsene on Tuesday received a four-game suspension for the hit.) Manchester did get some good news on the roster front as both forward Richard Clune and defenseman Patrick Mullen returned to practice Tuesday.

Clune, who has been out since December with an abdominal injury, said he won't travel with the team this weekend as he continues conditioning to get back in game shape. Watching from the sidelines has been tough on Clune.

“Deep down, it's hard to watch them win and hard to watch them lose,” Clune said. “When they win, I want to be a part of it. When they lose, I'm sitting in the stands helpless and can't do anything. It's hard.”

Clune said he expects to be back in action Wednesday when the Monarchs host Adirondack. Mullen's timetable is close, but he may not be ready this weekend either. Defenseman David Kolomatis and forward David Meckler remain out of action as well.

Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. Write him at iclark@unionleader.com.

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