Manchester (27-21-0-2) is in second place in the Atlantic Division with 56 points. Portland (23-19-2-3) is tied for third place in the division with 51 points.
“We played real well in the second and third (periods),” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “It wasn’t a real stellar start. I thought our lack of focus and lack of preparation from a mental standpoint was something that really sealed our fate in the early going. When you are playing a team that has a goaltender that plays as well as (Justin) Pogge did here against us tonight, you are not going to come back when you put yourself in a hole like we did.”
Portland struck for their third tally of the opening period and the second shorthanded goal of the game at 19:42. The play started in the Pirates own zone as they were able to block a shot from the left point. Pirates defenseman Michael Stone gathered the loose puck and began the odd man rush toward the Monarchs zone. Once Stone crossed the Monarchs blueline, the defenseman passed the puck from the top of left wing circle down low to right wing Jordan Szwarz at the right doorstep of Monarchs goaltender Jeff Zatkoff
. Szwarz slapped the puck back to the slot and onto the tape of center Ethan Werek who tapped the puck in the net for his fourth goal of the season.
Pirate’s defenseman Tyler Eckford opened the scoring at 3:17 of the first period with a shorthanded goal. The play began as right wing Matt Watkins carried the puck into the Monarchs zone along the right wing boards. Watkins crossed the blueline and let a slap shot go that was stopped by Zatkoff. The rebound bounced off Zatkoff and was scooped up in the left face-off circle by Szwarz who pivoted with the puck before sliding it to the center point as Eckford entered the zone. Eckford fired a one-timer past the blocker of Zatkoff for his sixth goal of the season.
The Pirates second goal started with an initial shot by Watkins from the top of the left wing face-off circle that Zatkoff blocked with his right shoulder. The rebound ended up behind the net where Pirates center Alexandre Bolduc quickly scooped the puck up and handed it off to Watkins who was skating behind the net from left-to-right. Watkins faked attempted a wrap around shot at the right post. The puck slid through a group of players in front of the net and found the stick of right wing Brett Hextall for the one-timer into the open net for his fifth goal of the season at 12:55 of the first period.
The Monarchs were able to break on to the scoreboard 50 seconds into the second period when defenseman Patrick Mullen
tallied his seventh of the season. Monarchs right wing Jordan Nolan
gained possession of the puck in front of the Pirates net and quickly slid the puck to the right face-off circle where right wing Linden Vey
was skating on the dot. Vey curled with the puck and sent a pass over to Mullen in the high slot. Mullen fired a one-timer past Pirates netminder Justin Pogge seconds after the Monarchs power play had expired.
The Monarchs struck again later in the second period on a wrist shot by center Justin Azevedo
. Monarchs defenseman Thomas Hickey
took a shot from the left point that went wide of the net to the right. The puck hit off the boards and continued up the right side of the boards toward the right point. Mullen stopped the puck at the top of the right face-off circle and rifled a pass over to Azevedo on the bottom inside corner of the left circle. Azevedo buried the puck into the back of the net with a one-timer for his 10th goal of the season.
The Pirates responded a minute and a half later as they increased their lead to 4-2 at 16:19 of the middle stanza. Szwarz picked up a loose puck in the offensive zone and passed it along the left wing half wall to right wing Ashton Rome. Finding Stone open at the center point, Rome fed a tape-to-tape pass to the defenseman. Stone settled the puck and ripped a shot through traffic and into the net for his ninth tally of the season.
Zatkoff (14-9-1) took his ninth loss of the season stopping 21-of-25 shots. Pogge (11-8-3) earned his 11th win of the season making 34 saves on 36 shots.
Manchester went 0-for-7 on the power play. Portland was 0-for-4 with the man advantage. Notables:
The Monarchs are 5-4-0-0 against the Portland Pirates this season…The Monarchs surrendered two shorthanded goals for the first time this season…Center Justin Azevedo
has five points (3-2=5) in his last four games…Monarchs goaltender Jeff Zatkoff
had a personal best five-game winning streak ended…Defenseman Thomas Hickey
is currently on a three-game point and assist streak (0-3=3).