Monarchs teach Portland a thing or two
Manchester’s Justin Johnson, left, gently paws Dean Arsene from Portland, resulting in a penalty during a matinee game for the Monarchs in Manchester on Wednesday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — Rookie Linden Vey scored the game-winning goal with 1:44 remaining to lift the Manchester Monarchs to a 4-3 win over Portland in front of 5,015 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Wednesday morning.
Manchester (6-8-1) fought back from two one-goal deficits in the game to send the crowd home happy. More than half of the fans in attendance were New Hampshire students taking part in the Monarchs’ second annual “Education Day” event.
“The kids in the building were fantastic,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “You could feel the excitement and the energy from the youth that was here today and hopefully we’ve incited a little more enthusiasm for this team and (can) get some more people in this building. It certainly makes a difference for us to have fans here and sense their excitement.”
With the game tied 3-3 late, the newly formed line of Vey, Justin Azevedo and Dwight King came up with the winning goal. King went in behind the net to forecheck and forced a turnover to Azevedo on the left wing boards. Azevedo saw Vey cutting to the net from the right side and hit Vey for a one-timer past goalie Curst McElhinney.
“The winning goal was textbook in the way that line is set up,” Morris said. “King went in, made a heavy hit on their D and finished his check and then Azevedo came up with the puck and Vey found his way to the net and Azevedo threaded the needle.”
Portland (4-6-1) had tied the game at 3-3 at the 15:28 mark of the third period. Brock Trotter passed the puck from behind the net to Andy Miele camped on the doorstep and Miele banged it past Jeff Zatkoff.
But Manchester kept the pressure up, eventually netting the goal that gave the Monarchs their first home win since opening night one month ago.
“It was a couple good shifts in a row and we just found some momentum and it was a good thing we got that goal,” Vey said. “We needed a win at home. We hadn’t won (here) in a while. It’s a good thing to start building some momentum at home.”
Portland took a 1-0 lead at 5:39 of the first period. Matt Watkins made a pass from behind the net to a streaking Nathan Oystrick in the slot for a one-timer that beat Zatkoff.
Manchester tied the game less than a minute later on a great individual effort from David Meckler. Aggressive fore-checking from Meckler led to a steal in the Pirates’ zone and Meckler broke in alone on McElhinney and snapped the puck through the five-hole.
The Pirates reclaimed the lead at 6:08 of the second period. Oystrick set up the score, collecting a loose puck below the right circle and feeding Brett Hextall on the left point for a shot that beat Zatkoff through the pads. Hextall’s goal came with his dad in attendance. Ron Hextall is the general manager of the Monarchs and is in town on one of his frequent trips to assess the state of affairs in Manchester.
The Monarchs tied the game again, striking at 11:24 of the second. Ray Kaunisto hustled to the puck behind the Pirates cage and then won a battle there, sending a shot on net from a bad angle that hit McElhinney and trickled in on the short side.
Manchester took its first lead of the game at 10:19 of the third period. Captain Marc-Andre Cliche scored shorthanded, stealing the puck from Oystrick and breaking in alone on McElhinney before roofing a backhand shot under the bar.
Vey’s goal sent the fans home happy and gave the Monarchs a much-needed win as they head out on the road this weekend at Providence Friday and Worcester Saturday.
“I think we showed a lot of character,” said Zatkoff, who was sharp in making 28 saves. “I thought we played a complete 60 (minutes) with a lot of energy. We had breakdowns, but we were able to overcome them and keep to the game plan. We were able to get the result we wanted.”