MANCHESTER -- Manchester Monarchs head coach Mark Morris was not pleased with his team's holiday hangover.
The Monarchs put forth a strong two-period effort, but fell apart in the third stanza in a 4-1 home loss to Portland on Thursday night. The Monarchs (21-6-5) hosted St. John's Saturday night and will host Hartford Sunday at 3 p.m. at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Morris' main concern was that his team recover quickly and not let Thursday's loss begin a slide. The Monarchs have the most points in the AHL and have overcome adversity all season in the form of injuries and call-ups to Los Angeles.
"We need to brush this one off and bounce back. We need better goaltending, we need better defense and we've got to find a way to put the puck in the net. Our power play right now is abysmal," Morris said. "We've got to work hard and guys aren't working hard enough to really make a difference. When you're a man up and you're getting outworked by the team that has one less player out there, that's disappointing. That's something we're continually harping on to get better and find the chemistry that's going to work."
Thursday's loss was uncharacteristic of the Monarchs this season. Strong goaltending has been a key with rookie J.F. Berube playing very well with Martin Jones called up to the Kings.
"If you look at the big picture, there have been a lot of contributions from a lot of sources," Morris said. "It all starts in the net and at that start of the season Martin Jones was stellar and J.F. Berube was real good. I don't think (Thursday) was anywhere near what we've seen so far."
A big help for the goalies all season has been a strong defensive presence in front of them. That was also lacking Thursday as Andrew Bodnarchuk and Vincent LoVerde had tough outings.
"Our D certainly has been very good and pretty solid, namely Bodnarchuk and LoVerde. Vinny was in the (penalty) box three times (Thursday). That's a killer," Morris said. "He's a character guy, he doesn't take those penalties and that's a lack of focus. He'll bounce back and Bodnarchuk . he's been one of the best plus-minus guys we've had."
On offense, the Monarchs have been balanced all season and the return of Linden Vey from L.A. will be a big help. But Vey may have been in the coach's doghouse Thursday. Vey getting back to Manchester late Christmas night was the reason Vey was a healthy scratch on Thursday and the vibe was that Vey should have worked harder to find an earlier flight.
"There were some travel issues. He traveled through the night and we didn't think it was in our best interest to play him. I don't think he would have had much energy after taking a red-eye (flight)," Morris said. "Those things happen and we'll hopefully get him back in so we can get our lines settled and start being more productive."
Thursday's loss broke a five-game winning streak and was just the second loss in regulation at home for Manchester this season. Thursday may have just been a speedbump and the result of holiday lethargy.
But with the calendar about to flip, Morris knows it doesn't take much for things to suddenly go south and he was working hard to keep the holiday hangover from hanging around and become something more.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is email@example.com.