MANCHESTER, NH – After a run of three straight wins, the Manchester Monarchs losing streak now stands at four.
The Monarchs went into the final two games of their 7-in-10 day stretch with the chance to come out of it with a winning record, hoping to turn things around after dropping contests to Reading (7-5-1-0) and Worcester on the 15th and 17th. However, Manchester (8-7-1-1) would go on to fall in their next two games against Adirondack (8-5-1-1) and Worcester (7-6-0-1).
The Thunder rolled into the SNHU in the midst of a 12 game road trip, fresh off of a win in Norfolk. Having won their previous matchup against the Monarchs, Adirondack was determined to repeat that result.
The first period was mostly uneventful, but the Thunder got things started quickly in the second. After only: 45 seconds, Desmond Bergin received a pass in the slot from James Henry and slapped it past Monarchs’ tender Evan Cowley to make it 1-0 Adirondack.
The Monarchs would answer back at 6:19 of the second on a goal from Zac Lynch, who beat Thunder keeper Nick Riopel after taking a pass from Monarchs’ assist leader Matt Leitner to draw even at one apiece. Just a minute and forty seconds later, Monarchs rookie Tommy Kelley found his first professional goal on a rebound. Joel Lowry took the shot which Riopel stopped, but Kelley picked up the pieces to make it 2-1.
The lead was short-lived, however, as the Thunder struck back on the power-play at 10:50 of the second. Kevin Lough received a pass along the blue line from defensive partner Dylan Olsen and took the wrist shot from the right circle that beat Cowley to make it 2-2. They would retake the lead at 13:44 of the second on yet another power-play marker. After a defensive lapse left Olsen alone at the top of the crease, Thunder scoring leader Ty Loney slid across the pass from the goal line which Olsen tipped into the net to make it 3-2.
The Thunder came out hard in the third to extend their lead to 4-2. 32 seconds into the final frame, Loney picked up a goal of his own after taking a feed from Brian Ward. He wristed the puck from the slot to beat Cowley on the blocker side.
Manchester would, however, mount a comeback. Matt Schmalz would pull the Monarchs back within one at 8:01 of the third on a goal-line shot from Riopel’s right side that beat the blocker to make it a 4-3 game. The tying goal came on the Monarchs’ power-play when Lowry picked up his second point of the night. Colton Saucerman took a point shot that Lowry redirected past Riopel to make it a brand new hockey game at 4-4.
However, the Thunder would go up for good at 13:08 of the third. After Bergin baited Cowley with a fake shot, he fed the puck across to Ward who put it into the empty half of the net to make it 5-4 Adirondack. That would hold as Riopel fended off the Monarchs’ offense for the rest of the night.
Looking to bounce back the next night against the Railers, who had the previous day off between tilts against the Manchester, the Monarchs would get on the board first at 11:27 of the first. The power-play looked good early, as Leitner set up Lynch on the one-timer that beat Railers goaltender Eamon McAdam to put the Monarchs ahead 1-0.
However, the Railers would take over from there. Former-Monarch-turned-nemesis Ashton Rome would kick off the scoring for Worcester at 9:47 of the second period, On the first of two Railers’ shorthanded tallies, Rome broke away into the Monarchs’ zone and took a shot, which Charles Williams handled. But Rome would find his own rebound and wouldn’t miss the second time, bringing the Railers back even at 1-1.
They would strike again at 12:31, again shorthanded. Kellen Jones broke free of the Monarchs’ defense himself and drove to the net, beating Williams glove-side to make it 2-1 Railers. They would make it 3-1 at 7:42 of the third when a shot by Mike Cornell went wide of the net, rebounding off the end wall to Kyle McKenzie, who slapped it home past Williams to double the Worcester lead.
The Monarchs would pull Williams at the end, but it would not work out for the visitors. With 48 seconds left, Nick Saracino would clear the puck from the Worcester end and Matt Gaudreau would win the race, finding the empty cage to ice the game at 4-1.
The Takeaway: The Monarchs woes continued on both ends of the ice, with the defense having costly lapses and the offense beginning to regress toward the mean in shot totals. Cowley surrendered five goals in 27 shots, looking more like the Cowley we saw at the beginning of the season than the more confident looking Cowley of late. The offense showed a lot more life and resilience against Adirondack than they had in the previous games, but Adirondack played a gutsy game and seemed to want it a little bit more. Williams’ performance was rather strong against the Railers, putting up a .936 sv%. But the special teams allowing two shorthanded goals is both unacceptable and murderous to morale. After giving up back-to-back shorties, it was going to be tough to pull out of that hole.
After their hot start where they were shooting the lights out night after night, the Monarchs’ totals are looking a bit more average these days. But despite the four-game skid, it’s not time to hit the panic button just yet. They dropped four last season near the end of November, and they recovered just fine.
Notes: Rome has now scored four of his five goals against the Monarchs this season, which is some way to treat your former team.
Worcester has managed to hold the Monarchs to 30 shots or fewer in four games this season. Apart from the 6-3 romp on November 11, the Railers have played the Monarchs well defensively all year.
After the aforementioned four-game slide in November 2016, the Monarchs ripped six straight wins in December, a month that saw them lose only once.
There was a scary moment in the Railers game when Jonathan Racine went down after a heavy hit, but he returned to the game and led the Monarchs in shots for the night. The last thing this team needs is more injury trouble.
The Monarchs play the first of three in West Valley City against the Grizzlies tonight. Puck drops at 7:05 Mountain time/9:05 pm ET.