Manchester's young Monarchs exhibit growing pains
It is a roster peppered with a few veterans, but the Manchester Monarchs remain one of the youngest teams in the American Hockey League and sometimes the growing pains can really sting.
That was the case on Friday night when Manchester held a 3-0 lead over Springfield heading into the third period and then saw it evaporate as the Falcons scored five goals to steal a stunning 5-4 win. The teams met again last night in Springfield and the Monarchs host Portland today at 3 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena.
"We've got to take a long, hard look at one another and take a look at the game film and correct some of those mistakes," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "We've got to find a way to handle the pressure. In this league, that's the way it is. Nothing is a sure thing and you've got to continue to do the things you did in the first two periods in order to win."
Consistency, even from period to period, has been a struggle for Manchester (9-7-3).
"People are going to acknowledge that we're a young team. But at the end of the day, we don't want to lose," said alternate captain Rich Clune. "We've got to learn how to close games out and that just takes time and we've got to keep at it."
The Falcons (11-3-4) came out and scored a goal at 2:32 of the third period to make the score 3-1. A huge -and controversial - penalty followed and the Falcons scored a power-play goal to pull within one at 3-2.
The penalty was a too many men on the ice call. The entire arena was able to hear coach Morris' complaints about the quality of the call.
"He was halfway in the bench. Their team was hollering and the (referee's) arm went up," Morris said. "It's really a sensitive thing. If the puck is around your bench, you can't play it if you're going for a line change."
The ensuing power-play goal seemed to change the game as Springfield was now in control.
"It was a momentum-changer for sure," Morris said. "To go from feeling pretty good about things to all of sudden, you're back-pedaling. It gave them tremendous momentum going into the rest of the contest. You don't want to look for excuses, but that's one you can look back on that definitely changed the momentum of the game."
The Monarchs nearly reclaimed control, however. Robbie Czarnik scored at 11:47 to make it 4-2. But it was just a speedbump for Springfield's comeback as the Falcons rattled off three more goals to win the game.
"That was a big goal for our team and a big goal for Czarnik. You would have thought we'd have learned our lesson by then," Clune said. "But they just swarmed us and put three away."
The question coming out of the game will be how much the young players can take from that loss and use it going forward.
"We're always looking to be better every time out. There's lots to learn from in that third period. You've got to find a way to get the job done," Morris said. "No one is going to feel sorry for you blowing a three-goal lead. That's for darn sure."
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Monarchs rookie Jordan Weal scored his first pro goal on Friday, converting a slap-pass feed from Vincent LoVerde into a re-direction goal from the slot.
"It was good. It was good to get the monkey off my back," Weal said. "It was a good play by Vinnie to find me in front there. Hopefully, I can keep it going."
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The AHL website is doing a "sim of the week" where it simulates one of the week's top matchups on EA Sports' NHL 13 video game. This week's was the Monarchs and Falcons game from Friday night.
While it wasn't the shootout that played out in real life Friday, Springfield did win the game 3-1. Linden Vey recorded the only Manchester goal.
The AHL teams have been in the NHL video game series for several years now and because the players themselves are included, the game is very popular with them. Check out theahl.com for more details on the simulated game.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.