MANCHESTER, NH – Right wing Teddy Purcell notched two goals and goaltender Jonathan Bernier
earned his first win as the Manchester Monarchs beat the Worcester Sharks at the Verizon Wireless Arena in front of the first sellout crowd of the season, 9,932 fans. The Monarchs have won four in a row and eight out of their last nine games.
Manchester (38-30-5-4) is in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 85 points. Worcester (28-35-5-6) is in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 67 points. The Springfield Falcons (34-32-5-5, 78 points) remain seven points behind the Monarchs for fifth place in the Atlantic Division after a win over the Binghamton Senators on Saturday night. The Monarchs need one more point in the standings to clinch a playoff spot in the 2008 Calder Cup.
Shortly after receiving his AHL Rookie of the Year Award, Purcell showed Manchester why he is the best rookie in the league. The winger earned his second goal of the night and his 25th tally of the season at 9:22 in the second period putting the home team ahead for good, 2-1. Left wing Matt Moulson skated down the right wing and found Purcell in the left face-off circle. From the dot, Purcell hammered a shot that ricocheted off of netminder Dimitri Patzold's right skate and into the net.
At 14:38 of the first frame, Purcell bobbed and weaved through the entire Worcester team until he found a spot that caught his fancy. The winger ripped a low riding shot that beat Patzold on his glove side. Moulson and defenseman Drew Bagnall earned helpers on Purcell's first goal of the night.
With defenseman Brad Staubitz in the box for interference, the best power play in the AHL proved their prowess once again. Right wing Lauri Tukonen skated along the right wing boards when he dropped the disc off for center David Meckler. The rookie then took a drive from the right circle that squeaked by Patzold at 12:23 of the second period. Defenseman Josh Kidd earned his third assist on the season.
A tough turnover in their own zone cost the Monarchs their only goal against at 16:09 of the second frame. Shorthanded, forward Steven Zalewski found the puck behind the Monarchs cage and quickly dished it to left wing Lukas Kaspar in the high slot. Kaspar one-timed a bullet past Bernier for his 16th goal of the season. Left wing Dennis Packard was given credit for the secondary assist.
Without letting up, the Monarchs increased their lead to 4-1 at 10:57 of the third and final period. Center Marc-Andre Cliche and center Brady Murray made a rush to the Sharks zone. Defenseman Joe Piskula was rushing out of the box from a hooking penalty and wasted no time as he took out a defender to free up Murray. One-on-one, Murray deked to his right and flipped the puck over Patzold for his 13th tally of the year.
Bernier tallied his first win in a Monarchs uniform with 27 saves on 28 shots. Patzold took the loss after stopping 17-of-21 shots on goal.
Manchester went 1-for-3 on the power play. Worcester was 0-for-5 with the man advantage.