MANCHESTER, NH – Seven of eight goals were scored on special teams as the Manchester Monarchs defeated the Portland Pirates, 5-3, in game six of the VIP Cup series at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Saturday night.
Manchester (13-12-2-2) is fourth in the Atlantic Division with 30 points. Portland (16-11-1-1) is first in the Atlantic Division with 34 points.
“I still want us to weather the low points,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “Those goals when you let teams back into the picture are real momentum killers and we have had way too many of those in the last month and a half. We are a good team when we play well. We just have to eliminate the mental blips that we have had a tendency to show.”
The Monarchs took the lead for good at 4-2 on the power play with the second of three goals by right wing Tyler Toffoli at 17:17 of the third period. Center Linden Vey out hustled a Portland defender for the puck at the bottom of the right wing face-off circle. After gaining control of the puck, Vey swung around and sent it across the ice to Toffoli who was waiting at the left doorstep. Toffoli fired a wrist shot for the game-winning goal. Left wing Marc-Andre Cliche also recorded an assist on Toffoli’s 12th goal of the season.
The Monarchs opened up the scoring with a shorthanded goal from left wing Dwight King at 4:52 of the first period. Cliche fed King the puck from the neutral zone as he gained the Pirates zone. King skated to the top of the left wing face-off circle before firing a slap shot high on the stick side of netminder Chad Johnson for his fifth goal of the season.
At 8:03 of the first period, Portland’s left wing Rob Klinkhammer scored shorthanded to tie the game at 1-1. Defenseman Maxim Goncharov took a shot that deflected off the end board glass. Klinkhammer grabbed the loose puck at the top of the left wing face-off circle and wristed a shot that beat Monarchs goaltender Peter Mannino high on the stick side for his eighth goal of the season.
The Monarchs regained the lead at 2-1 with a power play goal by Toffoli at 8:39 of first period. Defenseman Slava Voynov took the puck off the right wing half wall and sent a centering pass to Toffoli in between the face-off circles. Toffoli fanned on his first attempt but settled the puck and wristed a shot right underneath Johnson’s blocker for the goal. Left wing Tanner Pearson also assisted on Toffoli’s 11th goal of the season.
Vey increased the Monarchs lead to 3-1 on the power play at 7:05 of the second period. Pearson sent a pass from the bottom of the right wing face-off circle across to Vey in the bottom of the left wing face-off circle. Vey fired a hard pass intended for Toffoli in front of the net but it was deflected by a Pirates defenseman. The deflection bounced through Johnson’s five-hole for Vey’s eighth goal of the season.
With under two seconds remaining in the second period, Portland center Ethan Werek closed the Monarchs lead to 3-2 with a power play goal. Defenseman Michael Stone took a shot that went past the Monarchs cage and bounced off the end boards to the left doorstep. Werek grabbed the loose puck and fired it off a Monarchs defenseman and into the Monarchs net. Center Alexandre Bolduc also tallied an assist on Werek’s fifth goal of the season.
Portland closed the gap to 4-3 with a goal by center Andy Miele. Right wing Chris Brown took the puck the length of the ice and attempted a centering pass from the top of the right wing face-off circle. Brown’s pass deflected off a Monarchs defenseman’s stick and up in the air. Miele was able to swat the puck out of the air and over the shoulder of Mannino for the goal. Right wing Chris Conner also tallied an assist on Miele’s ninth tally of the season.
The Monarchs finished the scoring with an empty net goal capping Toffoli’s hat trick at 19:47 of the final frame. Cliche broke up a play in the neutral zone where King took control and passed the puck to Toffoli on the right wing. Toffoli gained the zone and wristed a shot in the empty net for his team-leading 13th goal of the season.
Mannino (6-2-0) earned his sixth win of the season stopping 27-of-30 shots. Johnson (10-6-0) took his sixth loss of the season with 31 saves on 35 shots.
Manchester went 3-for-6 on the power play. Portland was 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
Notables: The Monarchs tied the VIP Cup series at 3-3…The Monarchs improved to 9-1-0-0 when the team plays on Saturday…Monarchs right wing Tyler Toffoli has eight goals in six games when facing Portland including two hat tricks this season…Monarchs center Linden Vey has two goals and six assists for eight points in six games against the Pirates this season.
The Monarchs return to action against the Worcester Sharks on Cabin Fever Night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 26. Catch all of the play-by-play action of Monarchs hockey with Ken Cail online on the Monarchs Radio Network at WGIR 610 AM, WTPL The Pulse 107.7 FM, WGIRAM.com and at ManchesterMonarchs.com, presented by Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.