|Bernier (16-9-3) took his third shootout loss of the season stopping 22-of-25 shots in regulation and overtime and 8-of-10 snipers in the shootout. |
MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs battled back but fell short in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Portland Pirates at the Verizon Wireless Arena in their first game of the New Year on Saturday night.
Manchester (23-11-1-3) remains in first place in the Atlantic Division with 50 points. Portland (17-13-4-2) sits in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 40 points.
“It’s clear we’re getting a lot of effort but we need to find ways to get it done,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “Our margin for error is very slim. We need to minimize our mental mistakes and take advantage of our scoring chances. We’re close but it’s apparent we need to stick to our discipline and fix our mistakes. It’s a lot more fun to win.”
In the 10th round of the shootout, the longest in the Monarchs history, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani beat Manchester netminder Jonathan Bernier to give Portland the 4-3 victory. The lone goal from the Monarchs in the shootout came off the stick of defenseman Patrick Mullen. Right wing Mark Mancari also scored for the Pirates in the shootout.
The Pirates went up 1-0 on a power play goal by left wing Nathan Gerbe at 4:36 of the opening period. Gerbe picked up a pass from center Tyler Ennis and carried it from left to right around the Monarchs cage before finding his spot in the slot for a shot that beat Bernier between the pads for his sixth tally of the season. Mancari picked up his first of two assists on the night.
Gerbe struck again with his second goal of the game only three minutes after his first tally to give Portland a 2-0 advantage. Mancari stole the puck away from Monarchs center Corey Elkins along the end boards and carried it into the left face-off circle. Mancari found Gerbe on the right face-off dot and the left wing buried the biscuit as he knelt down to one knee. Ennis was credited with an assist on Gerbe’s seventh goal of the season at 7:46 of the first period.
The Monarchs would answer back with a power play goal by Elkins at 14:47 of the opening frame to cut the Pirates lead in half. Defenseman Alec Martinez started the play by feeding a pass to defensive partner blueliner Viatcheslav Voynov at the right point. Voynov tossed the puck behind the Pirates’ net. The biscuit bounced off the boards and over to Elkins at the bottom of the left face-off circle. Elkins quickly turned and ripped a shot past Portland’s goaltender Jhonas Enroth.
The Pirates would quickly regain their two goal lead on a blast from Mancari at the 53-second mark of the middle stanza. After left wing Philip Gogulla skated over the Monarchs blueline, he dropped the puck back to a trailing Mancari. Skating in from the right point, Mancari unleashed a beast of a one-timer into the right corner of the net beating Bernier on the glove side. Ennis assisted on Mancari’s 13th goal of the season which gave Portland a 3-1 advantage early in the second period.
Manchester started their comeback with a power play tally by center Marc-Andre Cliche at 15:51 of the middle frame. Center Gabe Gauthier shoved the puck along the end boards from right to left before taking a hit from a Pirates defender. The pass found Elkins behind the net and the center carried it to the bottom of the right face-off circle. Tossing the puck into the crease, Elkins’ shot trickled past Enroth, bounced off of Cliche and across the goal line for the center’s seventh tally of the season.
Right wing Kevin Westgarth tied the game up at 3-3 with his seventh goal of the season at 8:16 of the final stanza. Left wing David Meckler started the play with a pass to Elkins in the right corner of the Pirates territory. Elkins juggled the puck up to the right side of the net where his shot was blocked by Enroth. The puck slid across the crease to Westgarth on the left doorstep who took two swipes at the puck before he beat the netminder and tied the game.
Bernier (16-9-3) took his third shootout loss of the season stopping 22-of-25 shots in regulation and overtime and 8-of-10 snipers in the shootout. Enroth (11-11-1) earned the win with 23 saves in regulation and overtime followed by nine saves in the 10 round shootout.
Manchester went 2-for-5 on the power play. Portland was 1-of-4 with the man advantage.
Notables: The Monarchs are winless in their last three games (0-2-0-1)…Goaltender Jonathan Bernier has dropped the three shootouts, the only three he has been in net for this season…Left wing David Meckler has 11 points (7-4=11) in his last 10 games…Center Gabe Gauthier moved up into third place on the Monarchs all-time points leader board with 165 points (54-111=165) as he passed center Steve Kelly (164 points)…Right wing Kevin Westgarth has set a career high in goals scored with his seventh of the season tonight.