MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs drowned the Worcester Sharks 5-3 in front of 8,021 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday night.
Manchester (17-10-6-1) is in first place in the Atlantic Division with 41 points. Worcester (13-13-1-5) is tied for sixth place in the Atlantic Division with 32 points.
The Monarchs drew first blood at 3:26 of the first period. Monarchs left wing Petr Kanko made his return to the line-up known. Kanko blocked a slap shot from the right point and started a clean break out into the neutral zone. The Monarchs broke into the offensive zone with a three-on-two and Kanko leading the way. Kanko skated just below the left face-off dot and made a nifty no-look, behind the back pass to center Patrick O'Sullivan. Right wing Ryan Murphy received a quick pass from O'Sullivan and slammed the puck home to make the score 1-0.
At 10:37 of the first period the Monarchs struck again, Monarchs center Gabe Gauthier won the face-off in the left face-off circle of the Shark's zone. The puck went to Monarchs right wing John Zeiler who quickly flipped the puck into the top left corner over Shark's goaltender Dimitri Patzold to make the score 2-0. Left wing Matt Moulson also had an assist on the goal.
The Monarchs were on the scoreboard early once again with a fresh sheet of ice as Gauthier decided to feed Zeiler with his second goal of the game at 2:45 of the second period. Gauthier misplayed a shot at the top of the right face-off circle and it bounced through bodies toward Patzold. The goaltender made the save with his left toe despite the screen but the rebound found Zeiler's stick. Zeiler took two swift strides to his right toward the goal line and stuffed the puck home as Patzold was still stuck at the top of his crease.
Worcester scored at 5:35 of the second period on a goal by right wing Ashton Rome. Defenseman Dan Spang fired a shot from the left face-off circle. Monarchs goaltender Jason LaBarbera made the initial save with his left pad but the rebound bounced out to Rome who was alone in the slot and put the puck into the net past a recovering LaBarbera. Center Josh Prudden also had an assist on the goal.
At 7:54 of the middle stanza, the Sharks dropped the Monarchs lead down to one on a goal by right wing Graham Mink. Defenseman Brennan Evans took a weak shot from the left face-off circle that was deflected by Mink to make the score 3-2. Left wing Mathieu Darche also had an assist on the Shark's second tally of the night.
For the third time in as many periods, the Monarchs scored early in the period. At 1:36 of the final frame defenseman Bryan Schmidt scored his third goal of the year to bring the score up to 4-2. Left wing Noah Clarke took the puck behind the net from his right to left and sent a pass into the hash marks and onto the tape of Schmidt. The Rookie defenseman then ripped a shot through Patzold. Moulson recorded his second assist of the night.
At 18:07 of the third period, the Sharks brought the game back to within one goal in the hopes of a late comeback. Sharks center Mike Iggulden sent a puck down to Mink in the left corner from the left point. Mink took the puck to the net and tried to stuff it home. Mink was unsuccessful on his first try but was persistent and jammed his second attempt past LaBarbera. Spang also had an assist on the goal that made the score 4-3.
At 19:31, Monarchs right wing Tim Jackman shut down all hopes of a Sharks comeback with an empty net goal. The puck was misplayed out of the Monarchs defensive zone and into high slot of the Sharks offensive zone where Jackman began his push. Jackman began a foot race with Worcester defenseman Garrett Stafford. When Jackman gained a little space from Stafford, he was taken down but still maintained control of the puck with one hand on his stick while he sat on the ice. Jackman gently directed the puck into the empty net with both players following it to finish the play. The goal was unassisted.
LaBarbera earned the win stopping 33 of the 36 shots that he faced. Patzold took the loss blocking 27 shots on 31 attempts.
Manchester went 1-for-5 on the power play. Hartford was 1-for-6 with the man advantage.