MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs clinched a spot in the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season with a 4-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack in front of a crowd of 8,817 at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Sunday evening.
Manchester (44-21-6-1) is leading the Atlantic Division with 95 points. Harford (44-27-3-0) is in second in the Atlantic with 91 points.
The Wolf Pack started the scoring in the first stanza by netting a goal at 4:03. Monarchs defenseman Richard Petiot mishandled the puck and turned it over to Hartford center Brandon Dubinsky. Skating in front of the net from left-to-right, Dubinsky fought off a Monarchs defenseman and slid a backhander past goaltender Jason LaBarbera. Left wing Dane Byers also assisted on the goal.
At 7:10 of the first period, the Monarchs got the equalizer with a power play goal. Defenseman Bryan Schmidt fed a pass cross-ice to center Shay Stephenson. Camped out in the right face-off circle, Stephenson fired a wrist shot that beat netminder Al Montoya on the glove side. Center Matt Ryan earned an assist on Stephenson's 10th goal of the season.
With left wing Noah Clarke serving a two minute slashing minor in the opening frame, the Wolf Pack regained the lead by capitalizing on the power play at 8:39. Left wing Nigel Dawes skated from the bottom of the right face-off circle toward the front of the net and snuck a shot past LaBarbera's right pad. Dawes' tally was his team leading 24th of the season. Right wing Alex Bourret and defenseman Bryce Lampman assisted on the goal.
The Monarchs evened the score at 2-2 at 18:50 of the opening period. Executing a textbook breakout, Clarke made a tape-to-tape pass to Stephenson who then connected with Ryan for the one-timer beating Montoya past his left pad.
Manchester took the lead at 11:30 of the middle frame and never looked back. Right wing Tim Jackman picked up a bouncing puck in the slot and shot it through traffic beating Montoya five-hole. Stephenson and Ryan each earned their third point of the night by picking up assists on the Jackman marker.
With the man advantage, the Monarchs grabbed an insurance goal at 15:27 of the final period. Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky sent a wrist shot on net with Jackman perched on top of the crease screening Montoya. Tverdovsky lit the lamp and gave the Monarchs their second power play goal of the game. Clarke and center Marty Murray collected assists on the goal.
LaBarbera backed the win with 33 saves on 35 shots. Montoya took the loss stopping 29-of-33.
Manchester went 2-for-6 with the man advantage. Hartford was 1-for-8 on the power play.