Manchester, NH – Turnovers – not of the apple variety – were dished out plenty on Wednesday in a matinee game before over 5,000 school kids at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The problem is it was the Portland Pirates doing all the dishing.
Three turnovers by the Pirates, all leading to goals, proved to be enough for the Manchester Monarchs, who pulled off a 4-3 victory to snap a two-game losing streak.“We were just too casual with the puck at times for us,” said Pirates coach Ray Edwards. “I liked the way we competed. We blocked shots. The pace of the game was excellent for both teams. We made one too many mistakes and it cost us.”
With the game tied at 2-2, the Pirates had a chance to take the lead as Nick Deslauriers was called for cross-checking midway into the third period; however, it was Monarchs’ captain and former Lewiston Maineiac Marc-Andre Cliché capitalizing on the power play, picking the puck out of the skates of Pirates defenseman Nathan Oystrick, streaking in on a breakaway, beating goalie Curtis McElhinney with a backhander for the shorthanded goal.
At 15:28, the Pirates bounced back to tie the game when Andy Miele recorded his first point since returning to the Pirates after two week stay with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Miele, parked at the top of the crease, took a pass from Brock Trotter, shoveling a shot by Monarchs’ goalie Jeff Zatkoff.
With 1:44 remaining, another turnover by the Pirates lead to the game-winning goal as Justin Azevedo intercepted a clearing attempt by defenseman Chris Summer, who tried to backhand the puck up the far side boards, firing a cross-ice feed to Linden Vey for an empty-net tap-in, giving Manchester the lead, 4-3.
“It was a game of momentum that went back and forth,” said Edwards. “When it’s 3-3, we’ve got to be smarter. It was three real bad mental mistakes that cost us.”
The Pirates, playing the Monarchs for the third straight game and fifth time in their last 11 games, found the back of the net first when Oystrick converted on a one-timer from Matt Watkins in slot, beating Zatkoff at the 5:39 mark of the first period.
Watkins on the feed to Oystrick was hit from behind by David Kolomatis – no call on the play – leaving the game with an upper-body injury. Edwards had no update on his condition, same with forward Brock Trotter, who took a shot off the hand in the closing minutes of the third period, and went immediately to the locker room in pain. Edwards didn’t disclose the injury, but noted that “it didn’t look good.”
Less than a minute later after the goal by Oystrick, the Monarchs responded as Pirates defenseman Maxim Goncharov coughed up the puck in the defensive zone to David Meckler, who skated in, snapping a shot between the legs of McElhinney to tie the game at 1-1.
Brett Hextall playing in his second game since returning from a lower-body injury, scored in as many games at 6:08 of the second period.
Hextall, at the point, fired a shot that bounced through several players, skipping by Zatkoff to give Portland a 2-1 advantage.
Hard work by the Monarchs paid off as Ray Kaunisto, from behind the net, banked the puck off McElhinney to tie the game at 2-2 after forty minutes of play.
“I thought it was a really good hockey game, but unfortunately for us we made too many mental errors and they capitalized on them,” said Edwards.
McElhinney finished the night with 24 saves, while Zatkoff stopped 28 of 31 in the win.
Three of Manchester’s six wins on the year have come against the Pirates. They’ll have to wait awhile to meet again as both teams won’t play each other until Dec. 11 back at the Verizon Wireless Arena.