MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs finished the 2008-09 season with a 5-4 loss to the Portland Pirates in front of 8,020 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday night.
Manchester (37-35-0-8, 82 points) is in fifth place in the Atlantic Division. Portland (39-31-3-7, 88 points) is in third place in the Atlantic Division.
"It was a very humbling season in a lot of ways," said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. "We didn't make the playoffs but on the other hand, everyone competed hard and bounced back from many gut wrenching losses. We have a lot of character on this team, unfortunately the inexperience we couldn't overcome."
Center Nathan Gerbe found the net for the second time tonight and 30th of the season to give the Pirates a two-goal lead at 8:15 of the third period. Left wing Tim Kennedy found Gerbe along the left wing. The center carried the puck down the left wing and wristed a shot that squeezed between Monarchs goaltender Daniel Taylor and the left post for the 5-3 Pirates' advantage.
Following a pre-game award ceremony, it took less than a minute for the Monarchs to put the puck in the net. With a face-off at the right circle in the Portland zone, center Marty Murray won the draw back to defenseman Viatcheslav Voynov at the point. Voynov sent a pass to the right corner for left wing Matt Moulson. The third year winger passed the puck through the crease for right wing Trevor Lewis to tap in past Pirates goaltender Kellen Briggs for his 20th goal of the season at the 55-second mark of the first period.
Center Gabe Gauthier double Manchester's lead 2-0 at 19:33 of the opening frame with his 12th tally of the season. Lewis was denied on his second goal of the game when his shot hit off the near post, snuck behind Briggs and landed over by Gauthier along the left wing half-wall. Gauthier one-timed the rebound into the net for the two goal advantage. Defenseman Josh Kidd assisted on the goal.
The Pirates began their comeback at 1:45 of the second period when center Tyler Bouck picked up his seventh goal of the season. Center Colton Fretter carried the puck into the Monarchs zone down the right wing. He cut around Voynov toward the inside and then began to wrap the puck around Taylor when Bouck finished the play by putting the puck in the net. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani assisted on Portland's first goal of the game.
Gerbe evened the game at 2-2 at 6:58 of the middle stanza with a power play goal. Kennedy passed the puck to Gerbe at the center point. The centerman wound up and buried the puck through traffic and into the net for his 29th goal of the season. Center Felix Schutz assisted on the tying goal.
The Pirates finished off their three-goal second period with defenseman Matt Generous' first professional goal. Right wing Mark Mancari carried the puck down the right wing and went to shoot the puck when he hit the right face-off dot. The puck deflected off a Monarchs player's skate and over to Generous at the inside edge of the circle. Generous tapped the puck past Taylor's right leg and into the net at 17:23 of the second period. Center Marek Zagrapan earned an assist on Pirates' third goal of the period.
Moulson wasted no time in the third period to bring the scoreboard even. Lewis fed the puck to rookie defenseman Thomas Hickey at the right hash mark for a blistering one-timer. Briggs made the save but the puck was bouncing with players on both teams trying to control it. Finally, Moulson got his stick on it and flipped it into the left side of the net for his 21 goal of the season at 1:52 of the final frame.
Monarchs' left wing Scott Parse attempted a drop pass but Fretter picked up the puck at Portland's blueline and broke into the Monarchs zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Opting to shoot rather than pass, Fretter snapped a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that beat Taylor just inside the left post.
Taylor was replaced by goaltender Jonathan Bernier following Gerbe's second goal of the night.
The Monarchs pushed for a late comeback when Voynov notched his eighth goal of the season at 18:57 of the third period. Hickey controlled the puck in the center of the Pirates zone and found Voynov on the left wing half wall for a one-timer that fluttered through traffic and found the back of the net. Center Justin Azevedo assisted on the power play goal to bring the final score to 5-4.
"I'm very proud of our guys," said Morris. "It was a great year of teaching for us."
Taylor (7-4-2) took his fourth game of the season stopping 21 shots in 48 minutes of playing time. Bernier (23-24-4) stopped all three shots he faced. Briggs (2-3-0) earned his third win of the season stopping 25-of-29 shots.
Manchester went 1-for-2 on the power play. Portland was 1-for-6 with the man advantage.