Monarchs lose, 5-2, drop to .500 mark
MANCHESTER - Captain Marc-Andre Cliche scored a pair of goals but it was not enough to overcome the struggles of goaltender Martin Jones as the Manchester Monarchs fell to the Connecticut Whale, 5-2, in front of 3,906 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night.
The Monarchs dropped to .500 for the first time this season at 12-12-4. Jones added to his franchise-record losing streak, which now stands at eight games (0-6-2). Manchester will attempt to rebound tonight when it hosts Portland at 7 o'clock.
"I don't how to explain this one. We played really well," said Cliche, who netted his fourth and fifth of the year. "It's a couple mistakes that we had mentally. When (the other team makes mistakes) we don't capitalize on it and it seems like when we make one, other teams score a goal every single time."
Manchester controlled play for stretches of the game but could not break through with enough goals. A strong second period turned a 2-0 deficit into a 2-2 game, but a Kelsey Tessier goal for the Whale (12-13-2) with 24 seconds remaining in the second changed momentum in the game.
"We really didn't need to give that one up late," Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. "You would hope you can go in and ride that momentum and it puts you in a good mental state for the rest of the game. But that one was very frustrating for the whole team."
Connecticut closed out the win with two goals in the third period. Chris Kreider scored on a wrist shot from above the right circle to make it 4-2 at the 4:46 mark. The goal ended Jones' night in net and Peter Mannino came on to mop up. Mannino will start tonight against Portland.
The Whale iced the win with an empty-net goal from Kris Newbury with 46 seconds remaining.
"I didn't like the goals that we allowed tonight," Morris said. "We've got to find a way to keep the puck out of the net."
The Monarchs appeared to have things back on course in the second period. Cliche scored his first of the game at 13:18 on the power play, re-directing a Jake Muzzin shot past Cam Talbot to make it 2-1.
Cliche tied the game just 46 seconds later. Rich Clune led the rush, passing to Stefan Legein at center and Legein fed Cliche for a close-range shot that hit Talbot but flipped up and into the net at 14:04.
But Connecticut was able to reclaim the lead at 3-2 on the Tessier goal. Tessier cruised into the slot and was not picked up and he then used Bryan Rodney as a screen to beat Jones with a wrist shot high to the stick side.
The Whale took a 1-0 lead at 7:54 of the first period. Newbury dug the puck out of the left corner and sent it into the slot for a wide-open Marek Hrivik. A quick fake got Jones down and out and Hrivik swept the puck into the open left side of the cage.
Connecticut pushed to a 2-0 lead at 12:40 with a power-play goal. A centering pass attempt from Chad Kolarik was deflected to the high slot and Newbury stepped into a slap shot. Jones got a piece of it but the puck trickled into the net.
The Monarchs have a chance to enter the Christmas break on a positive note if they can knock off red-hot Portland. The Pirates have won six in a row to move into first place in the Atlantic Division and come into tonight's game having had Friday off.
"It's going to be a big game," Clune said. "You don't want to go into the break with any regrets."