An Opener To Hang Your Hat On
Cliche scores a natural hat trick in Monarchs Home Opening victory
Manchester (1-0-0-0) is tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with two points. Springfield (0-1-0-0) sits atop first place in the Northeast Division with zero points.
“We had great energy tonight,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “We established momentum with a big first period and it put Springfield on their heels. That was the difference in the game.”
Cliche scored his second of three goals on the night only 14 seconds into the second period to give the Monarchs a 3-0 lead which would prove to be the game-winner. Right off the face-off, the Monarchs won the puck back to defenseman Andrew Campbell. The blueliner fed a pass up the center of the ice to center Andrei Loktionov who connected with Cliche as he flew up the ice. Entering the offensive zone with a burst of speed, Cliche ripped a slap shot from just inside the blueline beating Falcons goaltender Paul Dainton on his far side.
Monarchs center Justin Azevedo broke open the scoring at 9:57 of the first period on an impressive skill play. The play started when Monarchs netminder Martin Jones flung the puck up the ice to defensemen Patrick Mullen who entered the Falcons zone along the wall. Mullen attempted to pass the puck to the high slot as Azevedo came through but the puck was deflected off the stick of a Falcon defender. As the puck flew through the air, Azevedo reached up with his hand and gloved the puck down to the ice. In one fluent motion, Azevedo faked to the right and then slid the puck five-hole on Dainton for the first Monarchs power play goal of the season.
The Monarchs did not wait long to strike again as Cliche collected his first tally of the evening at 12:20 of the first frame. The play developed as the Monarchs entered the offensive zone. Loktionov carried the puck down the half wall before right wing Jordan Nolan received a perfectly executed drop pass. Nolan looked like he was about to shoot but wasted little time in dishing the puck across the slot to the face-off circle where the waiting Cliche was there to slap a one-timer into the back of the net for his first of the night.
Cliche struck again with his third goal of the game to complete his natural hat trick at 6:45 of the second period. Loktionov collected the puck at the point and rifled a pass down the half-wall to the waiting Mullen. The blueliner crossed the puck to the top of the crease where Cliche banged it home for his first professional hat trick.
The Monarchs scored their fifth and final goal of the night at 16:43 of the second period on an individual effort from left wing Ray Kaunisto. As Manchester broke out of their zone, Monarchs defenseman Cam Paddock dished the puck across the ice and into the neutral zone hitting Kaunisto in stride. Kaunisto then carried the puck in, 2-on-1, against the Falcons defense with fellow left wing David Meckler. The Falcons defenseman left his feet, sliding toward his own net attempting to cut off Kaunisto’s path to the net and the pass to Meckler. Kaunisto sped up and executed a move around the sliding defenseman, pushing the puck across the crease to the waiting Meckler who slammed the puck home past the beaten Falcons goalie.
The Falcons fought back, netting their first goal of the game at 18:11 of the second period. After a scrum in the corner below the end redline, Falcons right wing Tomas Kubalik passed the puck to center Martin St. Pierre. The centerman wasted no time in firing a puck into the slot where left wing Alex Giroux knocked the puck past Jones.
Springfield struck again for the lone goal of the third period at 1:02. Entering the Monarchs zone, Falcons center Nick Drazenovic passed the puck down the boards into the low corner where defenseman John Moore collected the puck and dished it out front to Falcons center Cody Bass who rifled the puck into the top shelf of the net past Jones.
Jones (1-0-0) earned his first win of the season stopping 23-of-25 shots. Dainton (0-1-0) took his first loss of the season with 24 saves on 29 shots.
Manchester went 1-for-4 on the power play. Springfield was 0-for-6 with the man advantage.
Notables: The last hat trick by a Monarchs player was left wing Dwight King on February 20, 2011 in a 4-0 victory against Norfolk…King’s hat trick was also a natural hat trick…Center Marc-Andre Cliche’s hat trick was the 21st in team history…Goaltender Martin Jones made 23 saves for the Monarchs in the victory…The Monarchs improve their Home Opener record to 7-4 with Friday’s victory.