ALBANY, NY – Left wing Matt Moulson scored his first career hat trick as the Manchester Monarchs beat the Albany River Rats 5-1 in front of 4,118 at the Times Union Center on Friday night.
Manchester (43-20-6-1) is leading the Atlantic Division with 93 points. Albany (33-32-3-3) is tied for fourth place in the East Division with 72 points.
It took a mere three minutes and nine seconds for the Monarchs to get on the board and once they got started, they were hard to stop. Defenseman Doug Nolan received a pass from right wing Tim Jackman just outside the left face-off circle. Nolan threw the puck on net with center Shay Stephenson in position to tip the puck past goaltender Tyler Weiman for his ninth tally of the season.
Moulson scored his first of three goals on the night at 5:51 of the first period. Skating shorthanded, center Gabe Gauthier and Moulson broke away on a two-on-one advantage toward Weiman. Gauthier fed the puck down low to Moulson who lit the lamp to give the Monarchs a 2-0 lead. Defenseman Peter Harrold earned an assist on the shorthanded goal.
Right wing Lauri Tukonen made it 3-0 at 1:06 of the middle frame with an unassisted tally. Stephenson's helmet was knocked off in a previous shift and lay still behind the River Rats net. The puck ricocheted off the fallen helmet and onto the stick of Tukonen in front of the net. The second year pro put the puck in the back of the net for his 13th goal of the season.
The Monarchs took a 4-0 lead with Moulson's second goal of the night, 22nd of the season, on the power play at 13:34 of the second period. Center Marty Murray sent the puck to the net from the right wing. Gauthier got his stick on the puck and tried to redirect it to Moulson. The River Rats tried to clear but the puck bounced to Moulson who flipped it over Weiman for the goal.
Moulson collected his first professional hat trick by burying his 23rd goal of the season at 16:58 of the second period. Gauthier dropped the puck back to Moulson who skated down the left wing and wristed a shot from the bottom of the left face-off circle five-hole on Weiman.
Weiman was replaced by netminder Justin Peters following Moulson's third goal of the night. Weiman stopped 12-of-17 shots in 36 minutes and 53 seconds of playing time.
The River Rats jumped on the scoreboard at 5:39 of the final stanza when left wing Cody McLeod scored his ninth goal of the season. McLeod collected the puck in the slot and fired it into the upper left corner of the net and past the screened goaltender Jason LaBarbera. Right wing Shane Willis and defenseman Noah Babin earned assists on the lone Albany goal.
LaBarbera earned the win with 35 saves. Weiman took the loss with 12 saves. Peters stopped all seven shots he faced.
Manchester went 1-for-3 on the power play. Albany was 0-for-8 with the man advantage.