HERSHEY, PA – The Manchester Monarchs dropped their third straight game with a 2-1 loss to the Hershey Bears in front of 10,649 fans at the Giant Center on Saturday night.
Manchester (18-22-0-5, 41 points) is in sixth place in the Atlantic Division. Hershey (31-12-0-3) leads both the East Division and the entire AHL with 65 points.
"We certainly deserved a better fate," said Head Coach Mark Morris. "The margin of error is so small right now. At critical moments, we don't make the big plays. The effort is there for the most part but our attention to detail seems to wane at critical times. The last three games have been against great teams that execute but we haven't executed."
Two 5-on-3 power plays carried a 1-1 tie into the third period until the AHL's leading goal scorer center Alexandre Giroux scored his 36th goal of the season to give the Bears a 2-1 advantage at 9:26 of the final frame. Giroux carried the puck into the Monarchs zone while battling with defenseman Davis Drewiske. Skating down the inside right side of the zone leaning on Drewiske, Giroux controlled the puck with one hand on his stick. As they passed the bottom of the right face-off circle, Giroux swiped the puck toward the net and beat goaltender Jonathan Bernier for the go-ahead goal. Defenseman Sami Lepisto and center Keith Aucoin picked up assists on the game-winning goal. Giroux has scored at least one goal in 17 of his last 18 games.
Aucoin began the game's scoring with his 17th tally of the season when the Bears had their two-man advantage at 5:35 of the opening period. Lepisto passed the puck to Giroux in the right face-off circle. Giroux faked a shot and sent a pass over to Aucoin in the left face-off circle for a one-timer that found the back of the net.
The Monarchs evened the game at 1-1 with defenseman Alec Martinez's fifth goal of the season at 6:19 of the middle stanza. Skating on their 5-on-3 power play, right wing Teddy Purcell fired the puck toward the net from the center point. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth made the save and the puck popped free in the slot. Centers Gabe Gauthier and Justin Azevedo whacked at the puck before it fell between the hash marks for Martinez to rip a slap shot into the top left corner of the net.
Bernier (10-14-3) took his sixth consecutive loss and 14th loss of the season with 26 saves. Neuvirth (3-2-1) earned his third win of the season stopping 29-of-30 shots.
Manchester went 1-for-5 on the power play. Hershey was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.