MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs clinched home ice advantage for the 2007 Calder Cup Atlantic Division Semi-Finals with a 5-3 win over the Worcester Sharks in front of a crowd of 3,742 at the DCU Center on Wednesday night. Tonight's Monarchs win coupled with the Sharks loss gives Manchester home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs as the highest number of points Worcester can accumulate in the remainder of the season is 97 which ties the Monarchs if they loose their remaining seven games. With the teams tied, Manchester would win the tiebreaker as they would have more wins overall with 44 compared to Worcester's 43 (if they won their remaining six games).
Manchester (45-21-6-1) is leading the Atlantic Division with 97 points and seven games remaining in the regular season. Worcester (37-26-3-8) is in fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 85 points with six games left to play.
Center Matt Ryan broke away from the Sharks defense and skated in solo on goaltender Thomas Greiss. At 14:19 of the first period, Ryan scored his seventh goal of the season by sliding the puck between the legs of Greiss on a breakaway. Left wing Matt Moulson and defenseman T.J. Kemp assisted on the first goal of the game. The Monarchs are 34-5-3-1 when they score the first goal of the game this season.
Manchester doubled their lead at 2:28 of the middle frame when defenseman Bryan Schmidt scored his fifth goal of the season on a power play. Schmidt collected the puck at the center point from center Gabe Gauthier and sent a slap shot through traffic and into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
The Sharks brought the game to within one with center Josh Prudden's seventh goal of the season at 4:53 of the second stanza. Left wing Lukas Kaspar fired a shot on Monarchs goaltender Jason LaBarbera who made the right pad save. The rebound bounced free to Prudden who buried it into the back of the net while LaBarbera was down. Right wing Graham Mink earned an assist on the Sharks first tally of the night.
Center Marty Murray regained Manchester's two goal lead at 9:22 of the second period. Defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky sent a pass from the top of the left face-off circle to Murray at the right doorstep. Murray tallied his 12th goal of the season with a one-timer into the open net. Defenseman Peter Harrold assisted on the power play goal.
Worcester's leading goal scorer left wing Mathieu Darche collected his 34th goal of the season at 14:41 of the middle period. Center Tom Cavanagh carried the puck behind the Monarchs net and fed a backhand pass to Darche in the slot for the wrist shot and goal to bring the game to 3-2. Center Mike Iggulden earned an assist on the goal.
Center Shay Stephenson registered his 11th goal of the season for a 4-2 Monarchs lead at 18:40 of the middle stanza. Schmidt fired a shot from the right point through traffic and into the pads of Greiss. The rebound bounced to the left of Greiss and Stephenson picked up the loose puck and tickled the twine of the open net. Ryan earned his second point of the night with an assist on the goal.
Right wing Grant Stevenson tallied his 13th goal of the season on the power play at 7:22 of the final period. Stevenson threw the puck on net from the right wing boards that deflected of Monarchs Stephenson's skate, between LaBarbera's legs and over the goal line. Defenseman Patrick Traverse and Cavanagh assisted on the Sharks final goal of the game.
Moulson finished off Worcester by flipping in his 24th tally of the season at 18:36 of the third stanza. Gauthier attempted to feed the puck through the slot but a Sharks defenseman blocked it. The loose puck found Moulson's stick who then flipped it over Greiss for the final 5-3 win.
LaBarbera backed the win with 35 saves on 38 shots. Greiss took the loss stopping 20-of-25.
Manchester went 2-for-8 with the man advantage. Worcester was 1-for-5 on the power play.