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December 30. 2012 9:05PM

Monarchs hoping to find spark on New Year's Eve

The Manchester Monarchs are hoping to ring in the new year with a win and avoid dropping under .500 for the first time this season.

Manchester (14-14-4) will host Worcester (16-11-3) tonight at Verizon Wireless Arena for the annual New Year's Eve game, complete with post-game fireworks inside the building in what is annually one of the higher games for fan attendance.

The Monarchs had been moving in the right direction with two wins, but dropped games at Worcester Friday (2-1) and Bridgeport Saturday (4-1) to fall back to the .500 mark.

"We've had long stretches of play where we've played well but the decisions we are making at crucial times are head-scratchers," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris.

Good shooting opportunities went by the wayside over the weekend and Morris is hoping players will start to shoot first and pass second.

"We need to be sharp defensively and make our chances count," Morris said. "As of late we passed off lots of opportunities to pull the trigger. It's tough to score goals when you don't shoot the puck."

Saturday's loss at Bridgeport was not only the third straight this season to former assistant Scott Pellerin's Sound Tigers, but goaltender Martin Jones' franchise-record-extending ninth consecutive loss.

Peter Mannino was in net for the loss at the Sharks Friday, but had won three in a row prior to that. Morris was going to wait to make his decision about tonight's netminder, but Mannino is the likely candidate.

"Right now I am leaning toward Peter Mannino," Morris said. "I'll have to sleep on it."

The Monarchs did get some good news over the weekend, however. Defenseman David Kolomatis returned to action after missing the previous 24 games with a hand injury.

Kolomatis started the season hot, scoring three goals and three assists over the first six games and leading the way on the power play.

When Kolomatis and Andrew Campbell were out, the Monarchs were thin at the blue line but now have two healthy scratches each night. Nick Deslauriers and Bryan Rodney were the odd men out Saturday but a rotation will likely be used to keep everyone fresh.

iclark@unionleader.com

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