On hockey: Monarchs digging a deep hole
THE HOLE got a little bit deeper.
Time ran a little bit shorter.
The Manchester Monarchs dropped a 4-2 decision to the Portland Pirates on Friday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
They need to be going in the other direction.
"It's tough," said Monarchs forward Hunter Bishop, who scored the only goal in the first period. "Everyone knows where we are in the standings. Guys are taking a look every day because that's what you do and it's our job. "
When they looked on Saturday, they surely didn't much like what they saw.
The Monarchs remained tied for 11th place in the Eastern Conference going into their Saturday night home game against a Providence Bruins team that not only took over first place with a Friday night win but clinched its first playoff berth since 2009.
Manchester entered Saturday night six points behind Hershey, which held down the eighth and final playoff spot and seven behind Connecticut, which was in seventh place.
The Monarchs were tied with Bridgeport with 69 points and they and the Sound Tigers also trailed Norfolk (73 points) and Albany (70).
"It's not going to be easy, but at the same time this is what we've worked hard for all year and we can do it with the guys in this room, I believe," Bishop said. "We need to find a way right now. It's do or die and we need to find a way to get points."
They gave up a couple of points on Friday night, not unlike how they have squandered points during the season to get into this mess - on the outside looking in at the playoffs with the season winding down - said coach Mark Morris.
Time is running out.
The Monarchs have just seven games remaining. They play at Worcester this afternoon at 3 and then close out with a couple of three-in-three weekends.
They play Connecticut, Hershey and Worcester at home next weekend and then, to add to the challenge of the playoff push, close out with three road games at Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre and Hershey the weekend after that.
The defensive lapses that led to goals on Friday night and in turn to the loss of two points in the standings were reminiscent of other such situations through the season, Morris said.
"We can't afford to do that now and we've seen it too many times in the past," he said. "It's the same thing we've been preaching since day one: Take pride in your defensive game and learn to manage the puck and manage the clock. Being sleepy on defense is a recipe to exactly what you saw unfold."
And yes, it would have been nice to build up a little cushion heading into the three-game road-trip that ends the regular season.
"That's the message we tried to get through early on in the season," Morris said. "Any squandered points might come back to haunt you. You have to get as much hay in the barn as you can fit in the early part of the season."
Hay, like time, is in short supply at the moment.
'Tis the season when some collegiate hockey players finish up their year and opt to sign professional contracts to get a late-season taste of playing for pay.
Some do it as seniors and others opt to pass on a year, or more, of eligibility and come out early.
Dartmouth forward Matt Lindblad and North Dakota defenseman Derek Forbort - both of whom just completed their junior seasons - are two of the latter.
The Boston Bruins announced on Friday they had signed Lindblad, a free agent, to an entry level contract and he had been assigned to Providence.
The Los Angeles Kings announced late on Friday night they had come to terms with Forbort, 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds. Forbort was their first-round pick and 15th pick overall in the 2010 NHL draft.
UNH defenseman Brett Kostolansky, who closed out his four-year career in the Northeast Regional at the Verizon last weekend, signed with the Rapid City (S.D.) Rush of the Central Hockey League last week.
Kostolansky had seven goal and 39 assists for 46 points in 143 career games and helped the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in three of his four seasons.