MANCHESTER, NH – Goaltender Barry Brust backstopped the Manchester Monarchs to their sixth straight victory by beating the Houston Aeros 3-2 in front of 7,269 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday night.
Manchester (28-12-6-1) is leading the pack in the Atlantic Division with 63 points. Houston (18-22-1-5) is in sixth place in the West Division.
On a night marked by the two-millionth fan, the Monarchs started off with a bang. Center Gabe Gauthier fought for the puck at the left face-off circle against an Aeros defenseman. After gaining control of the puck, he passed it to right wing John Zeiler at the top of the circle who released a blazing shot on Aeros netminder Dieter Kochan. The goaltender saved Zeiler's shot with an electric slide to his left, but was unprepared for Monarchs left wing Matt Moulson's perfect positioning. Moulson, on the right door step of the net, cradled the puck and iced the caked with a shot into an open net at 14:58 of the first period to put the Monarchs ahead, 1-0.
As the whistled sounded to start the second period of play, the Monarchs wasted no time increasing their lead to 2-0. Monarchs right wing Tim Jackman sat in the box for hooking when left wing Noah Clarke took the puck off the face-off and pushed his way up the right boards. After lifting an opposing player's stick to steal the puck, he unleashed an unstoppable wrist shot over Kochan's glove side. The puck nestled itself into the back of the net with only 29-ticks on the clock.
It only took 31-seconds into the third period for right wing Danny Irmen to put the rubber disk past Brust. Center Bryan Lundbohm controlled the puck in the left face-off circle and passed it to Irmen who was stationed in the middle of the Monarchs zone. Irmen took the shot on Brust and threaded the puck between the pads for his 12th goal of the season.
Defenseman T.J. Kemp sent the puck around the boards in the Aeros zone. Right wing Lauri Tukonen fought for the puck in the left corner, won the battle and found center Shay Stephenson streaking to the left post to put the puck past a poorly positioned Kochan at 5:27 making the score 3-1.
At 16:53 in the final period, Irmen tallied his second goal of the game to bring the Aeros to within one and the scoreboard reading 3-2. Right wing Joel Ward battled with the Monarchs defense behind the net as Brust stopped the dump-in pass. Brust was tripped up and Ward gained control of the puck. He passed the disk to defenseman Curtis Murphy who redirected it off the skate of a Monarchs player in front of the net and onto the stick of Irmen who pushed a weak shot into an open net.
Tonight, the Monarchs celebrated their two-millionth fan. Attending his first ever Monarchs hockey game, three-year-old Dylan Davis of Derry, New Hampshire, was awarded the special two-millionth fan Monarchs jersery, season tickets for the 2007-08 season and a bundle of other great gifts.
Brust, making his first start since returning from the Los Angeles Kings, earned the win in 29 saves. Kochan took the loss stopping 46-of-49 shots.
Manchester went 0-for-4 on the power play. Houston was 0-for-6 with the man advantage.