MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs returned to their home ice at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday night where they took on the Portland Pirates. Monarchs’ Sean Backman led the team to victory with a pair of late goals. After falling short in the recent shootout to the Hartford Wolf Pack last Saturday, the Monarchs were ready to bounce back with a win. Monarchs’ goaltender, Jean-Francois Berube, held strong against the firing Pirates which aided in their 3-2 shootout win Friday night.
Both teams were fired up and ready to go from the very first face-off. It didn’t take long for the puck to find its way into the back of the net. At just 3:14 into the first period the Monarchs opened the scoring when Nick Ebert sent a slap shot past Pirates’ netminder, Mike McKenna. Linemates, Paul Bissonnette and Jeff Schultz helped to set the play in motion to earn an early lead for the Monarchs. The crowd roared as the Monarchs skated to their bench to celebrate the goal with their teammates. As the fans cheered loudly it was clear that the momentum of play was only going to increase as the game continued on.
Just moments later the Pirates used the increased momentum to fire back to even the score with one goal apiece at 4:51 in the first. Lucas Lessio put the Pirates on the board after scoring a power-play goal with help from teammates Brandon Gormley and Tyler Gaudet. The Pirates went on the power-play at 3:36 when Derek Forbort was sent to the box for cross-checking. Very little time was wasted by the Pirates before sending shots on net. They utilized their quick skating forwards to carry the puck into the Monarchs’ zone and then relied on their finesse to dangle past defenders and move the puck towards goal. This is exactly how Lessio earned the Pirates’ their first goal of the game.
The game continued on very back and forth as both teams increased their physicality along with their drive to win. Both the Monarchs and the Pirates maintained aggressive play as they constantly exchanged hits throughout the game, which included several scrums that broke out after the whistle. This caused the fans to erupt with energy as they cheered their Monarchs on. The Monarchs began implementing bigger and more effective hits against their opponent as their aggressive play grew stronger. Many of these hits were delivered by Monarchs’ defenseman, Jeff Schultz, who knew exactly how to get the crowd going.
Defensively both the Monarchs and Pirates were doing everything within their power to shut down their opponent’s offense and create an offensive surge of their own. The Monarchs in particular were not afraid to sacrifice the body when it came to defending their goal. This proved to be very effective in keeping the puck away from Berube who was ready to clean up any leftovers.
“It’s incredible the way these guys laid themselves out on the line making shots, making big plays and never giving up, it was great,” Head Coach Mike Stothers said. “It was getting the maximum effort available from everyone tonight.”
The second period passed by scoreless as both teams fought to take the lead, but neither succeeded in doing so. Finally the Pirates were able to take their first lead of the game after Corey Trivino pushed the puck through the Monarchs’ defenders and into the back of their goal at 10:43 in the third. Dylan Reese tallied an assist on the play after sending the puck to his teammate to carry into their offensive end.
With only a couple minutes remaining in regulation, Sean Backman scored his first goal of the night at 17:31 with help from Zack O’Brien and Michael Mersch. The Monarchs knew that they needed another goal and they needed it fast if they wanted a chance to win. Therefore the team kicked it into high-gear as they hustled and forced the puck on goal. Offensively the Monarchs were determined to get the puck past McKenna by whatever means necessary. After several attempts, Backman was able to pick off a rebound and send it through McKenna to send the game into overtime.
After a scoreless overtime the game was forced into a shootout in which both teams’ goaltenders proved strong in denying almost every shot against them. The final shooter of the night was Backman who skillfully skated straight to goal with speed then deked in front of McKenna and flipped a backhander into the net to end the game.
“I’ve been proud of our guys a lot this year,” Stothers shared. “But I think tonight was incredible.”
Looking forward, the Monarchs have only two home games remaining in their season, one of which includes Fan Appreciation Night Saturday April 18th at 7:00pm. The Monarchs head back out on the road Saturday April 11th as they begin the first of two back-to-back games against the Sound Tigers of Bridgeport, CT.