LOWELL, MA – Goaltender Matt Lopes made his pro debut stopping 42 shots to extend the Manchester Monarchs win streak to five games as they topped the Lowell Devils, 4-3, at the Tsongas Center on Wednesday night.
Manchester (40-26-3-6) remains in third place in the Atlantic Division with 89 points. Lowell (36-28-4-6) is tied for fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 82 points.
“That was the most improbable win I’ve seen,” said Monarchs Head Coach Mark Morris. “It was Hudson Bay hockey. Our penalty kill did a fantastic job and what a night for Matt. It was a big two points and a character win for our team.”
Right wing John Zeiler picked up his second goal of the game in a very similar fashion as the first. Center Marc-Andre Cliche
carried the puck around the net and put the breaks on along the left wing half wall where he fired a shot on net. Zeiler was in the slot to redirect the puck past goaltender Mike McKenna for his 10th goal of the season at 7:39 of the third period. Right wing Kevin Westgarth
assisted on the goal that brought the game to 4-2.
Lowell started off the scoring early with center Brad Mills 11th goal of the season at the 49-second mark of the opening period. Left wing Louis Robitaille fed the puck up to Mills who was skating down the left wing and cut in toward the goal. At the left doorstep, Mills snuck the puck past Monarchs goaltender Jeff Zatkoff
for the first goal of the game. Defenseman Matt Corrente assisted on the goal.
Right wing Patrick Davis doubled the Devils lead and took Zatkoff out for the rest of the game at 5:33 of the first period. Davis skated down the left wing, fought off defenseman Patrick Mullen
and cut in on Zatkoff. As Davis slid the puck under the goaltender, he fell on top of Zatkoff. The netminder lay on the ice while talking with Monarchs Athletic Trainer Mike Muir. Zatkoff left the game with the assistance of his teammates and did not return. Center Tim Sestito and right wing Stephen Gionta assisted on the goal that brought the game to 2-0.
Lopes made his professional debut by replacing Zatkoff between the pipes for the Monarchs.
Skating on a 5-on-3 man advantage, defenseman David Kolomatis
cut the Devils lead in half with his seventh goal of the season at 14:18 of the first period. Defenseman Alec Martinez
sent the puck from the center point to center Andrei Loktionov
in the right corner. The rookie center found Kolomatis at the top of the right face-off circle for the one-timer and goal to bring the score to 2-1.
The Monarchs tied the game at 2-2 with Zeiler’s ninth goal of the season at 9:10 of the second period. Cliche carried the puck behind the Devils cage from right to left. As he attempted the wrap around, Zeiler was at the top of the crease and was able to get his stick on the puck to slide it under McKenna. Mullen assisted on the goal.
Center Trevor Lewis
gave the Monarchs their first lead of the game at 4:21 of the final frame. As a Devils defender intercepted a lengthy pass from the Monarchs, Lewis picked his pocket at Lowell’s blueline. Weaving around another Devils defender, Lewis carried the puck through the left face-off circle and to the net. McKenna went down on the ice and Lewis curled the puck around the sprawled out goaltender and into the back of the net as he fought of defenders and held his balance on one leg. Lewis’ fourth goal of the season gave the Monarchs a 3-2 lead.
Lopes gave up the only goal of his debut at the 9:13 mark of the final stanza when right wing Matt Halischuk skated in on a breakaway. With two Monarchs defenders chasing, Halischuk skated in on Lopes and shot the puck five-hole for his 10th goal of the season.
Zatkoff (10-9-0) stopped 1-of-3 shots through 5:33 of the game before leaving with a lower body injury. Lopes (1-0-0) earned his first professional win in his pro debut with 42 saves on 43 shots. McKenna (22-16-6) took his 16th loss of the season with 31 saves.
“It meant a lot,” said Lopes following his pro debut and first win. “It was a big win for the team. They are a great group of guys and they had my back out there.”
Manchester went 2-for-7 on the power play. Lowell was 0-for-7 with the man advantage.
NOTABLES: Manchester has won their last five consecutive games…The Monarchs have not given up a power play goal in 15 attempts over five games…Manchester’s magic number to clinch a berth in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs is two; any combination of two points earned by the Monarchs or two points lost by the Norfolk Admirals…Goaltender Matt Lopes made his pro debut in relief of netminder Jeff Zatkoff
who was injured early in the first period…Zatkoff will be evaluated by team doctors on Thursday but his lower body injury is not expected to be season ending...In his first overall game of the season, Lopes stopped 42 shots…Defenseman Alec Martinez
has recorded 13 points (2-11=13) in his last eight games…Martinez is on a four-game scoring streak with eight points in his last four games (1-7=8)…Center Oscar Moller’s six-game scoring streak (3-6=9) came to an end when he was held off the scoreboard in Lowell.