MANCHESTER, NH – Center Marc-Andre Cliche
picked up his first three-point game and his first Gordie Howe hat trick as he led the Manchester Monarchs to a 5-1 win over the Springfield Falcons in front of 5,665 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Wednesday night.
Manchester (30-26-0-6, 66 points) has sole possession of fourth place and the final playoff position in the Atlantic Division with 18 games remaining on their schedule. Springfield (19-35-7-2, 47 points) is in seventh place in the Atlantic Division.
"I thought we had a complete effort tonight," said Head Coach Mark Morris. "Everyone contributed on the ice and we were executing on all facets."
Cliche and defenseman Alec Martinez tallied 38 seconds apart in the second period to give the home team a 3-0 lead. Cliche's third goal of the season came off the rebound from defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov's shot from the center point. Martinez fed the puck to his blueline partner for a fierce slap shot. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk made the pad save but Cliche was in the slot to chip in the rebound at 13:20 of the middle stanza.
The Monarchs picked up a power play goal at 4:52 of the opening frame to continue what they started on Sunday when they topped the Falcons 2-1 at the MassMutual Center. The difference between Sunday's game and the game on Wednesday is the Monarchs converted with the man advantage. Manchester was 0-for-9 on Sunday. Left wing Matt Moulson netted his 15th goal of the season off a pass from left wing Scott Parse. The play started with center Justin Azevedo controlling the puck along the left wing half wall. Azevedo handed off the puck to Parse as the winger skated down the left wing through the face-off circle. With Moulson positioned between the hash marks, Parse flipped him a backhanded pass. Moulson buried the puck into the back of the net as he knelt down on one knee.
Cliche dropped the gloves with defenseman Theo Peckham at 13:57 of the first period. The bout was a draw as both players were separated behind the Falcons net.
Martinez tallied his seventh of the season at 13:58 of the second period when he jammed in the rebound from Cliche's shot from the left face-off circle. Cliche carried the puck into the circle and snapped a wrist shot on Dubnyk. With the puck falling in the crease, left wing Richard Clune took a swipe at it before Martinez was able to stuff the puck over the goal line.
Monarchs center Gabe Gauthier scored his ninth goal of the season to give the crowd of 5,665 fans free french fries from McDonalds as the team tallied their fourth goal of the game. Right wing Trevor Lewis handed off the puck to Parse along the left wing. For his second assist of the night, Parse sent a cross-ice feed to Gauthier at the bottom of the right face-off circle for a short wrist shot that slipped under Dubnyk's left pad for the goal at 4:20 of the final stanza.
Springfield ended goaltender Jonathan Bernier's bid for a shutout at 7:39 of the third period. On the power play, left wing Rob Schremp won the face-off in the left circle to the right of Bernier. Schremp slid the puck back to defenseman Taylor Chorney at the left point. Chorney fired a shot on net that Bernier stopped from the top of the crease. The rebound fell to the netminder's right and center Ryan Potulny was there to swipe the puck in the net for his 25th goal of the season.
Cliche answered back with his second goal of the night and fourth tally of the season at 8:24 of the final period. Center Brian Boyle carried the puck into the Falcons zone and down the left wing. As he skated through the left face-off circle, he fluttered a wrist shot toward the net. Dubnyk got a piece of the shot but the puck landed in the crease about a foot away from the goal line for Cliche to nudge over the red paint to bring the score to 5-1 in the Monarchs advantage. Left wing Vladimir Dravecky assisted on the final goal of the game.
Bernier (16-17-3) picked up his 16th win of the season with 23 saves on 24 shots. Dubnyk (15-34-1) took the loss with 26 saves.
Manchester went 1-for-3 on the power play. Springfield was 1-for-6 with the man advantage.