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Depleted Monarchs fall to quick-strike Connecticut

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 11. 2012 10:38PM
Connecticut's Jared Nightingale, left, plays the puck away from Manchester's Brandon Kozun during Saturday night's AHL game at the Verizon Wireless Arena. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER - It was a good cause and a good crowd, but not a good outcome for the Manchester Monarchs.

The Connecticut Whale defeated Manchester, 4-1, in front of an announced sellout crowd of 9,852 for 'Pink in the Rink' night at Verizon Wireless Arena. The ice was dyed pink and the Monarchs wore special pink jerseys that were auctioned off to raise funds and awareness in the fight against breast cancer.

Manchester (28-22-2) was forced to patch together a makeshift lineup thanks to two call-ups to Los Angeles (Jordan Nolan and Dwight King) and an injury to captain Marc-Andre Cliche. Two defenseman, Nick Deslauriers and Patrick Mullen, had to play forward.

Manchester head coach Mark Morris compared his team to the ill-fated Black Knight from the movie 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail.' The knight fought valiantly even after losing his limbs, but was ultimately defeated.

'We're starting to feel like Monty Python here. We're losing our appendages,' Morris said. 'We had to jockey our lines and play some defensemen up front. We're a bit of a M.A.S.H. unit right now, trying to piece together some chemistry.'

After a fast-paced but scoreless first period, the game turned in the second when Connecticut broke out for three goals. Casey Wellman made it 1-0 at 12:01. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault beat Ray Kaunisto to the puck deep in the Manchester zone and then took it around the net, feeding Wellman driving to the net for a one-timer past Martin Jones.

Just nine seconds later it was a 2-0 game, with the same line delivering for the Whale. Audy-Marchessault sent a cross-ice pass to Wellman at the left point and Wellman drilled slap shot past Jones.

Connecticut (24-16-9) went ahead 3-0 at 13:32 with a power-play goal. Mats Zuccarello sent Wojtek Wolksi into the zone and he drew the defense to the left before slipping the puck back to Kris Newbury on the right for a quick shot into the cage.

'The kids are playing hard right now, but too many mental mistakes cost us three quick goals,' Morris said. 'Against a team that can move the puck like they can and a team with some guys down from Rangers on conditioning assignments, they made us pay.'

Manchester came out in the third period with some fire, scoring 1:45 into the frame to pull within a pair at 3-1. Rookie Robbie Czarnik, playing in his second game since returning from a mid-January concussion, tallied his sixth goal of the year by using Brendan Bell as a screen and firing a sharp wrist shot to beat Chad Johnson.

But the Whale scored less than a minute later to take the momentum away. Kelsey Tessier's shot from the left point was deflected first by Tim Erixon in the slot and then by Andreas Thuresson on the doorstep and into the net.

'When we finally scored, we allowed a tip-in goal that can't happen,' Morris said. 'We've got to be picking sticks up in front of the net and we've got to be clearing the net-front so our goalie has a chance.'

Monarchs forward Richard Clune electrified the crowd with a quick rock 'em-sock-'m sequence with 11:30 remaining. First, Clune buried Blake Parlett with a hit behind the Manchester net and then when he got to center ice he dropped the gloves and dropped Jeff Woywitka with a series of punches.

The display got the crowd into the game and may have raised some money as well (Clune's two jerseys went for $700 and $650 in the auction, behind only Slava Voynov's $700), but it wasn't enough to translate into goals and Connecticut was able to ride out the clock for the win.

Manchester is at Springfield today at 3 p.m. and on the road again Friday at Adirondack before returning home Saturday (Hershey, 7 p.m.) and Sunday (Adirondack, 3 p.m.).