MANCHESTER, NH – Center Justin Azevedo
scored the game-winning goal in overtime to lift the Manchester Monarchs over the Hershey Bears, 3-2, in overtime at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Monday evening. Manchester cut Hershey’s series lead in half to 2-1 in the best-of-seven series of the 2010 Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final. Game four is at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Tuesday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m.
“We have a character bunch of guys,” explained Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris following Monday evening’s victory. “They realize the magnitude of this game and there is a big difference between a 2-1 series and being down 3-0, especially against this club.
“It was a hard fought battle. Our young guys have taken a lot out of this game and will bring it to tomorrow night’s puck drop.”
Azevedo scored his third goal of the playoffs to win the game for Manchester at 2:43 of overtime. Azevedo entered the offensive zone along the left wing and skated toward the top of the face-off circle. He dropped a pass back to a trailing left wing Dwight King
at the top of the left circle. King shuffled the puck with his stick, evaded a defender and fed a pass toward the net. Azevedo drove to the net, picked up King’s pass and buried the puck past Hershey netminder Michal Neuvirth.
Left wing Alexander Giroux opened the scoring with a power play goal at 17:26 of the first period to give the Bears an early 1-0 advantage. Center Keith Aucoin skated the puck out of the defensive zone and sent a pass to left wing Chris Bourque entering the offensive zone. Skating toward the right post, Bourque faked a wrap-around attempt and passed the puck out front for Giroux who sniped it into the top right corner of the net. The goal was Giroux’s team-leading 11th goal of the season.
Following a scoreless second period in which Manchester outshot their opponent 14-to-3, center Mathieu Perreault scored at 3:55 of the third period. Within the offensive zone, center Jay Beagle set up shop at the top of the left face-off circle. Beagle connected with a circling Bourque who skated toward the left wing corner. From the corner, Bourque connected with Perreault on a pass that was fired home past Monarchs netminder Jonathan Bernier
to put the Bears up 2-0.
Right wing John Zeiler scored his third goal of the playoffs at 5:44 of the final stanza to put the Monarchs on the scoreboard. Zeiler began the play by sending the puck around the boards from the right corner to the left corner. Defenseman Jacob Muzzin collected the puck and sent a soft wrister to the net. Zeiler crashed the net and flicked the puck past a sprawling Neuvirth to bring the Monarchs to within one goal.
Center Gabe Gauthier knotted the game at two goals apiece with his third period tally at 7:22. Defenseman Drew Bagnall held the puck at the left point and passed the puck along the blueline to his defense partner Thomas Hickey
. A Bears player made contact with Hickey as he took a shot, softening the blast. Center Andrei Loktionov
, positioned inside of the right face-off circle, collected the misfire and blasted a slap shot of his own on goal. Gauthier redirected the blast in front of the net for his team-leading seventh goal of the post-season.
Bernier (9-4) collected his ninth victory of the playoffs, stopping 23-of-25 shots on goal. Neuvirth (8-1) drew his first loss of the post-season, halting 37-of-40 shots.
Manchester went 0-for-7 on the power play. Hershey was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
NOTABLES: The Monarchs recorded their first victory in the Eastern Conference Final in franchise history…Center Gabe Gauthier is currently in the midst of a four-game goal streak and seven-game point streak, scoring five goals in his last four games and eight points (7-1=8) in his last seven games…Manchester held Hershey to only three shots on goal in the second period, a playoff low for Monarchs opponents…With the loss, the Hershey Bears are no longer undefeated after recording the first goal of a game…The Monarchs overtime win also handed Hershey their first overtime loss in six games this post-season.