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MANCHESTER, N.H. – After holding the division lead for so much of the regular-season, the Manchester Monarchs find themselves in danger of possibly finishing third after their latest loss to the Worcester Railers.

The loss was the sixth in a row for the Monarchs (40-25-3-3,) dating back to March 23rd, and have only one point during that stretch. The Railers (37-26-4-4,) on the other hand, have won six straight and eight of their last ten. They’ve fought their way into the playoffs and are now building momentum at the expense of their divisional rivals, having defeated the Monarchs Saturday night by a score of 3-2.

The Railers struck first early on, at 2:51 of the first period. Holding the puck at the point, Ben Masella took a shot on the net that found Dylan Willick waiting at the edge of the crease. Willick tipped the puck past Monarchs’ goaltender Charles Williams to make it 1-0 in favor of the visiting squad.

The lead would increase to 2-0 at exactly 15:00 of the first, this time off of the stick of Dwyer Tschantz. The Railers’ Matt Lane fed a pass to defenseman Justin Hamonic, who took the one-time shot on the net. This one would also be redirected, connecting with Tschantz’s stick and finding the back of the cage to double the Monarchs’ deficit.

But the Monarchs would come roaring back to end the period. Their first goal came on the power-play at 18:40 of the opening frame, on yet another redirect. It would be Kevin Morris, hovering near the net (and Railers’ tender Will King) who would do the magic this time, taking a shot fired by captain David Kolomatis and turning it into paydirt to make it 2-1.

2-2 would come a mere 25 seconds later, at 19:05 of the first. Alexx Privitera would send a pass up to a waiting Matt Schmalz, who streaked into the Worcester end along the boards and made a quick move to the middle, wristing the shot under the catcher of King to tie the game up and take the Monarchs’ momentum into the end of the period.

The Monarchs would outshoot the Railers 22-10 for the rest of the game, but they wouldn’t find another goal. Instead, it was T.J. Syner who would win the game for Worcester at 15:43 of the third period. Defenseman Josh McArdle took up the puck in the corner and slid it cross-ice to Syner at the point. Syner would take the wrister from there that beat Williams and solidified the lead at 3-2 for the Railers, and that lead would hold until the final buzzer.

The Takeaway – After a rough start, the Monarchs took command of the game with the flurry at the end of the first and held it until they let control slip away with just minutes to spare. They had plenty of chances to score and couldn’t capitalize, and they paid the price. That happens sometimes, but this was a crucial game, and in a situation that they should never have been in in the first place. The Monarchs have had every opportunity to lock up the North, and they let it slip through their fingers. On Thursday night, they were leading the division. Now, with only one night of regular season action to go, they’ll be struggling to even have home-ice advantage in round one. So it goes in the North, but it’s got to be a bitter pill to swallow.

The crazy thing is, they can still win the division, but it would require a Brampton win over the Thunder this afternoon, as well as the Monarchs earning at least one point against the Railers. One point would result in a three-way tie for first between the Thunder, Monarchs, and Reading Royals, and the Monarchs would own the tiebreaker due to goal differential. Two points would be preferable, as a win right before the playoffs would be much better than SEVEN STRAIGHT LOSSES. So, some advice for the Monarchs going into Sunday’s game: try to win.

Notes – Saturday night saw the return of Tony Turgeon to the SNHU. He last played with the Monarchs on December 30th, 2017. Tony has been spending his time with the Springfield Thunderbirds, where he had one goal and one assist in 21 games. Sam Kurker has also returned, but was a scratch for this game.

The final game of the regular season will be played this afternoon between the Monarchs and the Railers at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA. Puck drops at 3:05 pm.