MANCHESTER, NH – Defenseman Bryan Schmidt scored a shorthanded goal to lift the Manchester Monarchs over the Springfield Falcons 4-2, their fifth consecutive victory, in front of 5,991 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Wednesday evening.
Manchester (27-12-6-1) is in first place in the Atlantic Division with 61 points. Springfield (22-23-0-1) is in sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 45 points.
Springfield struck first in the opening frame at 4:14 with a power play goal by defenseman Doug O'Brien. The Falcons cycled around the Monarchs penalty killing unit looking for an opportunity. Springfield center Dan Corso sent a pass through the low slot from the bottom of the right face-off circle. O'Brien, who was waiting on the left post, picked up the puck and put it past a diving Monarchs goaltender Jason LaBarbera. Former Monarchs left wing Eric Healey earned an assist on the play.
At the seven minute mark of the second period, the Monarchs tied the score at 1-1 on a goal by center Patrick O'Sullivan. Right wing Tim Jackman carried the puck over the blueline and wound up for a slap shot. The shot was deflected off a Falcons defenseman's stick and off the boards to the left of the net. Veteran center Marty Murray collected the puck and passed it into the slot where O'Sullivan found the open net as Springfield goaltender Karri Ramo was out of position.
At 10:49 of the second stanza, the Monarchs pulled ahead 2-1 on a goal by right wing Lauri Tukonen. With three seconds remaining on a Falcon's penalty, the team sent the puck the length of the ice. LaBarbera came out of his net and cradled the puck in the trapezoid perfectly for defenseman T.J. Kemp. The rookie All-Star then brought the puck out from behind the net and fired a tape-to-tape pass to Tukonen who was streaking through the neutral zone down the right boards. The winger put on the wheels and flew past the defensemen. He brought the puck through the top of the crease and switched over to his backhand to flip the puck into top left corner over Ramo's blocker. LaBarbera earned his first assist of the season and first career point.
The Monarchs tallied their sixth shorthanded goal of the season with one second remaining on defenseman Brendan Buckley's holding infraction. Murray moved the puck into the left face-off circle of the Falcons zone and made a pass over to Schmidt at the center point. Schmidt ripped a snap shot wide right. The puck took a fortuitous bounce off the end boards and to the right of the net where Schmidt slid the puck home to make the score 3-1. O'Sullivan tagged an assist onto the tally at 13:40 of the second period.
The Falcons brought the game to within one at 12:01 of the third period on goal by Corso. Springfield's right wing Norm Milley crossed the Monarchs blueline with the puck and skated down the left side. Milley sent a pass to the stick of Corso who ripped a snap shot past LaBarbera. Healey added an assist to the goal.
With 47.4 seconds remaining in the contest and Ramo on the bench for the extra attacker, Monarchs center Gabe Gauthier solidified the win for Manchester. Springfield defenseman David Spina had the puck in the slot in his zone and mishandled an outlet pass. Gauthier had trouble controlling the puck but recovered it in enough time to shoot the puck into the open net. Gauthier's unassisted goal was his ninth tally of his rookie season.
LaBarbera earned the win by making 26 saves. Ramo took the loss by stopping 28-of-31 shots.
Manchester went 0-for-4 on the power play. Springfield was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.