Monarchs in must-win situation Thursday night in Manchester
The Monarchs, the No. 7 seed in the American Hockey League's Eastern Conference, certainly have shown they can play with No. 2 seed Springfield.
But now they must beat the Falcons.
The Monarchs, who dropped a pair of overtime decisions at Springfield on Saturday and Sunday, face their first elimination game in the best-of-five quarterfinal series tonight at 7 at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
"I thought we had a pretty good weekend and the guys were working pretty hard," said Monarchs forward Andy Andreoff. "I guess at the end the bounces didn't go our way. That's the way it goes in playoff hockey. Anything can happen. But there's still three more game left for us and I'm sure we can do it."
Perhaps, there are three games left.
The Monarchs need a win tonight to force a Game 3 at the Verizon on Saturday night and need another win then to send the series back to Springfield for a winner-advances game on Sunday afternoon.
The first order of business is continuing to play tight defense and get the good goaltending from Martin Jones that took the first two games to overtime.
The next goals are to boost an offense that resulted in a 2-1 overtime loss on Saturday and 3-2 overtime setback on Sunday and to stay out of the penalty box.
"It's a game of inches and the margin of error is very, very small," said Monarchs coach Mark Morris. "We've had very little production, we haven't had any production, from our scoring lines. It's a credit to the way Springfield's played and their maturity. Our guys have got to learn to battle through that, though."
Linden Vey (22 goals and 45 assists for 67 points), Brandon Kozun (26-30-56), Tanner Pearson (19-28-47) and Jordan Weal (15-18-33) were the team's top scorers in the regular season, but none of them has a point though the first two games.
"We're a young team and they're facing older, more experienced players and their being off the score sheet speaks volumes,' Morris said. "Our productivity is coming from our depth line guys that aren't known as goal scorers. This is playoff hockey and we've got to get gritty and our power play has been ineffective. That boils down to winning loose pucks and going to the hard areas."
Special teams bit the Monarchs in Springfield.
The first goal they gave up on Saturday night came on a penalty shot. They were 0-for-4 on the power play on Saturday and 1-for-3 on Sunday.
Springfield had eight power play chances on Sunday and scored once. The winning goal in overtime, though, came just seconds after the Monarchs killed the last of their penalties.
The Monarchs must also find a way to keep pesky Cody Bass in check. Out most of the year with an injury, he had two goals and five assists in his 18 regular season games. Then he went out and scored the overtime winner in each of the first two games.
"He's a grinder," Morris said. "That's what he is. He's been in the playoffs before and he's a veteran.
The Monarchs have an added chore tonight, too. They must also deal with Falcon reinforcements in forward Ryan Johansen and defenseman Dalton Prout. Both spent the second half of the season with the parent Columbus Blue Jackets and became available when the big-league team came up just short of the NHL playoffs on Saturday night.
They got to Springfield in time for Sunday's game, but were held out and are expected to play tonight.
The Monarchs hope they get to play Johansen and Prout and the rest of the Falcons a couple more times, too.
"I think we know we can beat them, just bringing them to overtime twice," said defenseman Nick Deslauriers. "They're not a better team than us. Their goalie (Curtis McElhinney) has been playing good and Jonesy's been playing awesome. ... I think the guys are ready. Home ice. Bring a good show in front of our fans and try to win two and go back there and win the last one."
Andreoff had assists on two of Manchester's three goals last weekend. Deslauriers had one of the goals on Sunday with Andreoff and Jones, the goalie, assisting. Deslauriers also had an assist on Saturday when his shot from the point deflected off the skate of forward Brian O'Neill and in. ... Jones and McElhinney each saw 73 shots in the first two games. Jones stopped 68 and McElhinney 70.