Monarchs win battle, but lose the game to Pirates, 4-2
Manchester's Richard Clune, left, fights Portland Pirates Dean Arsene during the first period of their game at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Tuesday evening. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs got their revenge, but the Portland Pirates got something more important: two points.
The Pirates scored three first-period goals en route to a 4-2 win over Manchester in front of 3,304 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Tuesday night. Manchester fell to 27-21-2 and will play at Worcester Friday night before returning home Saturday for “Pink in the Rink” breast cancer awareness night against Connecticut.
“This has been an ongoing thing with this group, learning how to bring the intensity and passion and the compete level into this and every game,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “It wasn’t there.”
The storyline entering the game was Pirates captain Dean Arsene, who injured Monarchs rookie Robbie Czarnik with an illegal check (and was suspended four games) when the teams met on Jan. 15. Czarnik has not played since and it was all but a foregone conclusion that Arsene would have to drop the gloves.
With 14:18 remaining in the first period, Arsene had no choice as Manchester’s Richard Clune pinned him against the boards and began to throw punches. Clune got the win in the fight as Arsene did not get off a punch before tumbling to the ice, but Clune got an extra two minutes in the penalty box.
“I knew he was out there and I hit him,” Clune said. “That’s how hockey players handle their situations. They fight.”
But that was all there was to cheer about for the home fans in the first. Portland led 1-0 when Clune jumped Arsene, having scored a shorthanded goal when Tyler Eckford one-timed a blast from the high slot to beat Jeff Zatkoff.
Playing with one fewer skater after Marc-Aintoine Pouliot was given a game misconduct for intent to injure 1:46 into the game, the Pirates (23-19-5) made it 2-0 at 12:55 on Brett Hextall’s fifth goal of the year.
Matt Watkins’ wraparound attempt sailed through the crease and right to Hextall for a quick shot that eluded the outstretched right leg of Zatkoff as he tried to recover from defending the right post.
Portland pushed the lead to 3-0 at 19:42 of the first, notching another shorthanded goal. A defensive breakup in the Portland end sent the Pirates the other way with a two-on-one. Michael Stone fed Jordan Szwarz on the right side and Szwarz drew Zatkoff over and then sent a quick pass back to Ethan Werek in the slot for the score into the yawning cage.
The two shorthanded tallies were especially painful for Manchester because of an 0-7 power play effort on the night.
The Monarchs turned up the pressure in the second period, scoring a pair of goals to pull within a goal before the Pirates added one to leave the score 4-2 heading into the final frame. Manchester pumped 15 shots on goal in the second.
Defenseman Patrick Mullen got the Monarchs on the scoreboard 50 seconds into the second period. After a power play had ended, Manchester kept the puck in the Portland zone and Mullen sent a shot on net from the high slot that found a way through bodies in front and past goalie Justin Pogge.
Justin Azevedo made it 3-2 at 14:49, snapping a wrist shot high glove-side past Pogge from the left circle off a cross-ice feed from Mullen at the blueline.
But the Pirates struck last in the second when Stone’s slap shot from the high slot slid though traffic and past Zatkoff along the ice at 16:19 for the 4-2 lead. Portland was able to hold on from there as the third period played out scoreless, sending the Pirates away with the win and snapping Manchester’s three-game winning streak.
“We had several glorious chances in the last five minutes and (Pogge) was great,” Morris said. “It was too little, too late for us and I think that the message will be that we’ve got to be game-ready and this is one we let slip away.”