SPRINGFIELD, MA – Netminder Jeff Zatkoff stood on his head and stopped 29 shots to lead the Manchester Monarchs past the Springfield Falcons, 3-1, at the MassMutual Center on Saturday night.
Manchester (4-2-0-1) moved into second place in the Atlantic Division with the win with nine points. Springfield (4-4-0-0) is in third place in the Atlantic Division with eight points.
“It was pandemonium in the last five minutes,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “(Jeff) Zatkoff played really well and their goalie (David LeNeveu) played really well. We were relieved when Bud (Holloway) finally put it out of reach for us. (Springfield) came out banging and play was back and forth for much of the first but we controlled the puck around their net. It was a hard-fought affair. I think both teams competed exceptionally hard.”
Center Justin Azevedo doubled the Monarchs lead to 2-0 just 36 seconds into the second period. Skating three-on-three, Azevedo stole the puck from the Falcons and skated end-to-end on a breakaway before beating goaltender David LeNeveu between his legs for his third goal of the season. Defensemen Thomas Hickey and Alec Martinez were credited with assists.
The lone goal of the opening period came off the stick of Hickey at 16:50 with a blast from the right point. Left wing Dwight King began the play by sending the puck to defenseman Patrick Mullen at the left point. Mullen then found Hickey at the right point for the one-timer that beat LeNeveu on his stick side for his first goal of the season and the 1-0 lead for the Monarchs.
The Falcons cut the Monarchs lead in half when center Chad Kolarik scored a power play goal at 13:24 of the second period. Center Tom Sestito was on the right doorstep and kicked the puck back to right wing Michael Blunden. In the bottom of the right face-off circle, Blunden passed the puck over to Kolarik for the one-timer from the left slot that beat Zatkoff.
Monarchs left wing Bud Holloway added an empty net insurance goal at 19:52 of the final frame to give the Monarchs a 3-1 win.
Zatkoff (3-1-1) earned his third win of the season stopping 29-of-30 shots. LeNeveu (2-2-0) took his second loss of the season with 28 saves on 30 shots.
Manchester was 0-for-5 on the power play. Springfield was 1-for-5 with the man advantage.
Notables: The Monarchs have won two consecutive games for the second time this season…Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff has stopped 93-of-99 shots in his last three consecutive starts this season and has two wins and one shootout loss in those games…Defenseman Thomas Hickey and left wing Bud Holloway recorded their first goals of the season…Center Justin Azevedo has two game-winning goals this season…Azevedo’s goal 36 seconds into the second period is the fastest goal from the start of a period for the Monarchs this season.
The Monarchs return home to the Verizon Wireless Arena to take on the Charlotte Checkers at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 24. Catch all of the play-by-play action of Monarchs hockey with Ken Cail on the Monarchs Radio Network WGAM 900/1250 AM and at www.manchestermonarchs.com.