Monarchs finish off perfect weekend with 5-2 win over Portland
After a week of roster turnover, the Manchester Monarchs pulled together to make a statement, closing a strong weekend with a 5-2 win over the Portland Pirates Sunday in front of 4,593 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena.
The win completed a three-win weekend for the Monarchs, who improved to 20-17-4 for second place in the Atlantic Division. First-place Portland fell to 24-15-2. Manchester will host the Providence Bruins Wednesday at 7 p.m.
"Portland's a great team and I thought we came ready to play," said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. "The guys looked prepared and our message to the team before the game was to play with a lot of detail in our game and make sure we had good structure."
The line of Andy Andreoff (goal, assist), Marc-Andre Cliche (goal) and Brian O'Neill (two assists) led the way and Jordan Weal scored two of his own to lead Manchester.
"Our line has been clicking and we're battling hard," Andreoff said. "That's what we're supposed to be doing out there, crashing, winning battles in the corners and playing with a lot of energy out there."
The Monarchs put the game away with a strong third period. Weal made it 4-2 at 9:18, stealing the puck from Michael Stone in the Portland end and walking in alone on to beat goalie Chad Johnson five-hole.
Veteran David Meckler pushed the lead to 5-2 at 10:08, backhanding a rebound home after Johnson made a save on a David Kolomatis blast from the high point. It was Meckler's first goal of the season and capped the win.
The three-win weekend came on the heels of losing three players to call-ups to Los Angeles and two veteran and character guys (Thomas Hickey and Rich Clune) to waiver claims from other organizations.
The early result was not good for Manchester as the Monarchs lost 7-5 to Springfield on Tuesday night before righting the ship.
"Losing those guys, it weighed down on the team," Cliche said. "But we buckled down on Thursday and it gave more opportunity to other guys to step up and fill those big roles. Everyone responded and when everybody is working, good things happen like this weekend and three (wins) in three (days)."
Manchester put two on the board in the second period to take a 3-2 lead. Andreoff tied the game at 2-2 at 14:22 with a highlight reel goal. O'Neill passed from behind the net to a wide-open Andreoff, who cut across the top of the crease with a toe-drag move that got Johnson to the ice and allowed Andreoff to backhand the puck behind him.
"The work that was done by O'Neill was very impressive," Morris said. "He hounded the puck and created the situation and made the great feed and what a move by Andreoff. That was pretty."
The Monarchs took their first lead of the game at 16:39 with Andreoff and O'Neill once again factoring in. This time Andreoff gained the zone on the left side and fed O'Neill, who backhanded a pass across to Cliche on the right side for a one-timer to make it 3-2 and Manchester was on its way.
Portland took a 1-0 lead at 3:26 of the first period. Phil Lane fired the puck on net from the right wing boards and the puck hit traffic in front of goalie Martin Jones, with Pirate Mathieu Brodeur deflecting it into the net.
Manchester tied the game at 12:53 on a power-play goal from Weal. Brandon Kozun carried the puck up the right wing board and sent Weal in with a lead pass. Weal snapped off a wrist shot from the right circle to beat Johnson far post.
The Pirates held a 2-1 lead at the first intermission thanks to a Brandon Gormley power-play goal at 19:39. Manchester was unable to clear the puck and Gormley drove a slap shot on net from above the left circle that beat Jones just inside the right post.
But that was all from Portland as the Monarchs came out strong in the second and Jones (29 saves) closed the door the rest of the way with a solid effort between the pipes.