MANCHESTER, NH – Left wing Noah Clarke netted two goals as the Manchester Monarchs defeated the Portland Pirates 6-3 during a Saturday matinee game in front of a crowd of 9,350 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Manchester (47-21-6-1) is leading the Atlantic Division with 101 points. Portland (35-29-3-9) is in sixth place in the Atlantic with 82 points.
The Monarchs scored the first goal of the game on the power play at the 15:33 of the first period. Defenseman Peter Harrold had the puck at the center point and passed it down to center Marty Murray on the right goal line. Murray then passed the puck to Clarke who was stationed in the slot. Clarke cradled the pass and then fired a shot into the top left corner of the net over the glove of Pirates goaltender David McKee.
At 16:47 of the first frame, Monarchs left wing Petr Kanko doubled the lead to 2-0. Defenseman Jeff Likens skated down the right boards in the Portland zone and sent a pass to left wing Jeff Giuliano on the right doorstep. The winger spun around and fed a wide-open Kanko in the slot who fired a snap shot inside the left post.
Just 15 seconds later, the Monarchs increased their lead to 3-0 on a goal from center Matt Ryan. Kanko and Ryan moved in on McKee with a 2-on-1 breakaway. Kanko made a saucer pass over to the center who fired a one-timer past McKee. Giuliano earned his second assist of the game on the tally.
With one minute remaining in the first period, the Monarchs made the score 4-0 courtesy of Likens. The rookie shot the puck from the right point, through traffic and into the left side of the net for his first goal of his professional career. Earning assists were center Gabe Gauthier and left wing Matt Moulson.
Portland goaltender Gerald Coleman replaced McKee at the start of the second period.
At 5:04 of the second period, the Monarchs increased their lead to five goals on Clarke's second tally of the game. Right wing Tim Jackman grabbed the loose puck out of a scramble along the left boards in the Portland zone. Jackman fed the puck up to Murray at the left face-off dot who quickly moved the puck over to Clarke. Connecting for the second time of the night, Clarke fired a one-timer into the right side of the net.
The Pirates spoiled the shutout for Monarchs goaltender Jason LaBarbera on a tally in the second period at the 6:18 mark. Center Tim Brent led a 2-on-0 breakaway into the Monarchs zone and took the play toward the goaltender. Brent stick-handled the puck and slid it past the netminder into the left side of the net.
The Monarchs pushed their lead back up to a five goal difference 22-seconds into the third period on an unassisted goal by defenseman Richard Petiot. The second year pro took a wrist shot from the right circle that went under the arm of Coleman. The goal was Petiot's first of the season since returning from knee surgery.
At 8:35 of the third period, Portland defenseman Clay Wilson brought the score to 6-2. Forward Ryan Carter was on the left side of LaBarbera and fired a shot toward the goaltender. The rebound bounced out to the right and Wilson batted it into the right side of the net.
The Pirates scored the final goal of the game to push the score to 6-3 at 13:12 of the final frame. Right wing Bobby Ryan took a shot from the right face-off circle and LaBarbera made the save. The puck was stuck momentarily in his pads but as LaBarbera turned around to look for the puck, it fell out and barely trickled over the goal line despite the goalie's efforts to grab it with his glove.
Monarchs goaltender Barry Brust replaced LaBarbera with 2:25 remaining in the game after LaBarbera went down with an injury.
LaBarbera earned the win with 33 saves on 36 shots. Brust stopped 1-of-1 in relief. McKee took the loss stopping 6-of-10 shots. Coleman stopped 10 shots in his relief effort.
Manchester went 1-for-5 with the man advantage. Portland was 2-for-9 on the power play.