LEWISTON, ME – The Manchester Monarchs fell to the Portland Pirates, 4-2, in game five of the VIP Cup series, presented by VIP Parts, Tires & Service, at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee on Friday night. The Pirates lead the series 3-2.
Manchester (11-11-2-1) ranks fourth in the Atlantic Division with 25 points. The Pirates (13-10-1-1) are tied with the Providence Bruins (13-8-0-2) for second place in the Atlantic Division with 28 points each.
“Once again, we had an opportunity to turn things around and it didn’t happen,” said Monarch Head Coach Mark Morris. “A few breakdowns spoiled a pretty decent effort. We are close but it’s going to take a more complete game to get back in the win column. Hockey is a game of mistakes but the objective is to make fewer than your opponent. Working harder and smarter is what we need right now.”
The Pirates regained their lead at 3:45 of the third period. Center Brendan Shinnimin carried the puck down the left wing and snapped a shot on net. Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson tipped the puck between the legs of Monarchs goaltender Martin Jones to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Left wing Ethan Werek picked up an assist on the go-ahead goal.
The Monarchs took the early lead when left wing Dwight King lit the lamp for his fourth goal of the season at 1:19 of the opening frame. Right wing Brandon Kozun skated into the Pirates zone on a breakaway with a Portland defenseman on his heels. Pirates netminder Chad Johnson halted Kozun’s shot but King was in the slot to grab the rebound and flip it into the net for the 1-0 advantage.
Portland rebounded and tied the game at 8:12 of the first period. Taking a face-off against Monarchs center Marc-Andre Cliche in the left face-off circle in Manchester’s territory, right wing Jordan Szwarz won the draw and fed defenseman Chris Summers in the left corner. Summers connected with defenseman David Rundblad in the right face-off circle for a one-timer that beat Jones for his sixth goal of the season.
Right wing Brett Hextall gave the Pirates their first lead of the game at 3:46 of the second period. As Portland put on pressure in Manchester’s zone, left wing Rob Klinkhammer fired a point-blank shot on Jones. The netminder made the save and Ekman-Larsson tried to bang home the rebound. A Monarchs defenseman tied up Ekman-Larsson’s stick but Hextall scooped up the puck and squeezed it between Jones and the left post with a wrist shot from the slot for his fourth tally of the season.
Left wing Tanner Pearson evened the score at 2-2 when he netted his fifth goal of the season at 18:47 of the middle stanza. Right wing Tyler Toffoli fed the puck over to Pearson as the pair skated into the Pirates zone. Pearson carried the puck down the left wing as Toffoli crashed the net. As Toffoli reached the crease, Pearson fired the puck on net from the left wing boards as he neared the end red line. Pearson’s shot eluded Johnson for the game-tying goal.
Pirates right wing Chris Brown finished off the Monarchs with an empty net goal at 19:59 of the third period for his 10th tally of the season.
Jones (7-11-1) took his 11th loss of the season stopping 24-of-27 shots. Johnson (9-5-0) earned his ninth win of the season making 27 saves on 29 shots.
Manchester went 0-for-1 on the power play. Portland was 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
Notables: The Monarchs trail the Pirates 3-2 in the VIP Cup series…Manchester won the first two games of the VIP Cup series and have dropped the last three games (0-2-1-0)…The Monarchs host game six of the VIP Cup at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday, December 22…Manchester is on a two-game losing streak following their 9-2 victory over the Connecticut Whale on Saturday, December 8…Left wing Dwight King has a goal in each of his last two games.
The Monarchs hop on the bus and head to New York to face-off with the Adirondack Phantoms at the Glens Falls Civic Center at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 15. Catch all the play-by-play action of Monarchs hockey with Ken Cail on the Monarchs Radio Network WGIR 610 AM, WGIR.com and at www.manchestermonarchs.com.