WORCESTER, MA – Right wing Graham Mink collected five assists and left wing Mathieu Darche scored a hat trick in the Worcester Sharks 6-4 drowning of the Manchester Monarchs in front of 2,728 fans at the DCU Center on Friday night.
Manchester (15-10-5-1) drops to second place in the Atlantic Division with 36 points. Worcester (13-11-1-4) is tied for fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 31 points.
Right wing John Zeiler put the Monarchs on the scoreboard first with his seventh tally of the season at 4:34 of the opening period. On the power play, left wing Matt Moulson passed the puck to left wing Noah Clarke positioned on the goal line to the right of Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss. Clarke forwarded the pass to Zeiler streaking into the slot. The rookie right wing out of St. Lawrence University dragged the puck to the crease and flipped a shot over Greiss for the first goal of the game.
The next four goals came off the sticks of Darche and defensman Brennan Evans. Darche scored the first goal of his hat trick at 7:31 of the first period. Mink took the first shot from the left side of the crease that Monarchs goaltender Jason LaBarbera saved. The rebound popped free to center Mike Iggulden whose shot was also blocked. The third time was a charm as the rebound bounced to Darche who buried the puck into the net for his 20th goal of the season.
Doubling their lead, Evans collected his first tally of the season at 12:26 of the opening stanza. Darche and Mink created traffic in front of LaBarbera. Mink passed the puck to Darche whose shot was blocked but Evans jumped on the rebound to give Worcester a 2-1 lead.
Mink collected his third assist of the night on Darche's second tally of the game as the right wing tried to split the Monarchs defense and ended up kicking the puck over to Darche on the edge of the left face-off circle. Darche blasted a snap shot past LaBarbera on his glove side at 5:20 of the second period. Center Tomas Plihal assisted on the Sharks third goal of the night.
Darche completed his hat trick at 7:18 of the middle period while on the power play. Linemate Mink skated into the Monarchs zone and fired a shot on LaBarbera. The rebound went straight up in the air over the goaltender and landed in the crease behind a seated LaBarbera. Darche poked in the rebound for the first hat trick in Sharks history.
Manchester's right wing Tim Jackman answered back with his fourth goal of the season at 7:53 of the second period. Defenseman Peter Harrold fed the puck to Jackman just inside the Sharks blueline. Jackman's wrist shot soared past Greiss and squeezed inside the right post to bring the score to 4-2 in Worcester's favor. Right wing Mike Hoffman earned an assist on the Monarchs second goal of the night.
Worcester went back on offense as right wing Riley Armstrong scored his 12th tally of the season and the Sharks third power play goal of the night. Defenseman Garrett Stafford, out of the University of New Hampshire, sent the puck trickling through center of the Monarchs zone. Armstrong picked up the puck and blasted a wrist shot through LaBarbera's pads. Forward John Laliberte assisted on the goal.
Zeiler scored his second goal of the night, eighth of the season at 16:51 of the second period. Moulson gave the puck to center Patrick O'Sullivan behind the Sharks net. O'Sullivan redirected the puck into the slot for Zeiler's one-timer and the Monarchs second power play tally of the night.
Iggulden doubled the Sharks lead to 6-3 at 18:01 of the middle frame. Mink and Iggulden skated into the Monarchs zone on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Mink controlled the puck and sent a shot on net. LaBarbera made the save but the rebound fell to his left side and Iggulden nudged in his 10th goal of the season.
The second period ended with Worcester leading 6-3 and LaBarbera hitting the bench. Netminder Yutaka Fukufuji took over goaltending duties for the Monarchs leading into the third period. Tonight was Fukufuji's first AHL appearance this season. He played in two games for the Monarchs last season collecting a 1-1-0 record, a 3.00 goals-against-average and a .923 save percentage.
Hoffman scored his fourth tally of the season with a fluke goal at 11:09 of the third period. Hoffman carried the puck down the left wing and feathered a wrist shot into traffic in front of the Sharks net. The puck bounced off bodies and past Greiss for the 6-4 final score. Left wing Lauri Tukonen and defenseman Eric Werner assisted on the only goal in the third period.
LaBarbera took the loss with 27 saves on 33 shots through 40 minutes of playing time. Fukufuji stopped all nine shots he faced in the third period. Greiss earned the win with 22 saves.
Manchester went 2-for-3 on the power play. Worcester was 3-for-6 with the man advantage.