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Manchester gains home ice advantage for first round of the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
MANCHESTER, NH – Five different players found the back of the net for the Manchester Monarchs as they defeated the Portland Pirates by a 5-2 score at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday evening.

Manchester (43-25-3-6, 95 points) is now one point behind the Portland Pirates (44-22-6-2, 96 points) for first place in the Atlantic Division.

“The crowd was unbelievable,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris.  “The energy was great - it inspired us from the drop of the puck.

“It was a good opportunity to jump on them with all of their injured players.  It was a pretty evenly matched game from the injury perspective.”

Center Justin Azevedo scored his 18th goal of the season at 5:58 of the second period, recording the game-winning goal.  Securing the puck along the right wing boards, left wing Dwight King sent the puck to right wing Bud Holloway at the goal line.  Holloway spotted Azevedo at the right face-off dot and fired the puck up to his linemate who then launched the puck from one knee, beating the Portland goaltender on his glove side for the lead-extending power play goal.

Center Luke Adam scored his 26th goal of the season, a power play goal, at 6:29 of the first period to give Portland the early 1-0 lead.  After regaining the puck from Manchester, defenseman Alex Biega began his momentum toward the Monarchs zone.  Biega sent the puck up to right wing Mark Parrish along the half boards, who then continued into the right face-off circle.  Parrish spotted an open Adam near the edge of the left face-off circle.  Parrish collected the puck and carried it across the crease, backhanding the puck past the glove of Monarchs goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.

Defenseman David Kolomatis scored his seventh tally of the season at the 15-minute mark of the first period to knot the score at 1-1.  Left wing Ray Kaunisto skated with the puck through the neutral zone and passed it off to Kolomatis at the top of the right face-off circle.  The defenseman then sent the puck out to right wing Brandon Kozun along the boards, who immediately redirected it back to Kolomatis.  With a wrist shot, the defenseman fired the puck into the back of the net, beating netminder David Leggio on his glove side to tie the game at 1-1.

Right wing Bud Holloway scored his 27th goal of the season, a power play goal, at 17:48 of the first period to give Manchester the 2-1 advantage.  Receiving the puck at the left wing half boards, Azevedo looked to an open Holloway up at the edge of the left face-off circle and sent the puck ahead to his linemate.  Holloway skated in toward the crease and wristed a quick shot at Leggio, but was denied.  Collecting the rebound, Holloway let a second wrist shot off that hit the right post, and took advantage of the rebound once again, tipping it past the goal line to give the Monarchs the advantage late in the first period.

Right wing Justin Johnson scored his third goal of the season at 9:06 of the second period to increase Manchester’s lead to 4-1.  Left wing David Meckler initiated the play from the neutral zone, firing the puck to defenseman Patrick Mullen at the right face-off circle.  Mullen then handed off the puck to Johnson in the circle where he let off a quick slap shot, but was blocked by a Portland defenseman.  Johnson was able to get his stick back on the puck in the slot, where he wristed the shot to beat the goaltender on his glove side.

Leggio was relieved by netminder Jeff Jakaitis following Johnson’s goal.  Leggio halted 20-of-24 shots on goal through 29:06 in net.

Left wing Derek Whitmore scored his 26th goal of the season at 9:55 of the second period to cut Manchester’s lead to 4-2.  After a Manchester offensive drive, defenseman Nick Crawford collected the puck and cleared it out of the zone to center Mark Voakes who was positioned at the blueline.  Voakes skated toward the slot before backhanding a pass to his linemate.  Whitmore collected the feed and fired a slap shot to beat Zatkoff on his glove side to put Portland within two goals of Manchester.

Left wing David Meckler scored his 16th goal of the season, an empty net goal at 19:56 of the third period to extend Manchester’s lead to 5-2.  Following a Portland offensive attempt, Zatkoff knocked the puck to Meckler in the left face-off circle.  Meckler began his ascent down the ice and was able to keep his momentum going despite a handful of Portland players’ attempts to halt the winger.  Approached by right wing Mark Parrish in the right face-off circle of the Monarchs offensive zone, Meckler dove for the loose puck and was able to knock it into the empty net to further boost Manchester’s lead to 5-2.

Zatkoff (20-15-5) earned his 20th win of the season, stopping 24-of-26 shots on goal.  Leggio (22-9-0) dropped his ninth loss of the season with 20 saves on 24 shots.  Jakaitis (6-3-3) came up with no decision as he halted all 15 shots on goal in his minutes of relief.

Manchester went 2-for-5 on the power play.  Portland was 1-for-4 with the man advantage.

Notables: With tonight’s victory, Manchester secured home ice advantage in the first round of the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs…With his goal tonight, center Justin Azevedo is now tied for the league lead with eight game-winning goals…Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff’s assist on David Meckler’s empty net goal gives him three assists on the season, tying the franchise record for assists by a goaltender in one season with netminder Mathieu Garon, who recorded three assists in 52 games during the 2004-05 season…Left wing Bud Holloway’s 27th goal of the season tonight leads the Monarchs.
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