Monarchs show grit in shootout win
MANCHESTER — Jordan Nolan’s forehand sneaked past Brad Thiessen’s leg pad, sending 7,508 fans to their feet as the winger’s goal secured the Manchester Monarchs a 4-3 shootout win over East Division;leding Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Nolan, David Meckler and Marc-Andre Cliche potted goals in the shootout to lead the Monarchs to their fourth win in five games and bring the squad back to .500 after a rough start.
“We beat a good hockey team tonight,” Monarchs head coach Mark Morris said. “We’re back to .500 and we have some young guys building confidence.”
The young skaters seem to have grown up a lot. Three weeks ago, the same Penguins squad came to Manchester and disrupted the Monarchs’ breakout with a strong forecheck.
But Saturday night, Linden Vey, Justin Azevedo and Cliche showed skill in navigating through their own zone and created chances with a strong breakout.
Nolan gave the Monarchs a short-lived lead in the back-and-forth contest with a tally midway through the third.
The hero from the shootout tapped home a loose puck in the crease after a shot from the point to give Manchester a 3-2 lead.
“They competed very hard,” Penguins head coach John Hynes said. “I liked the way our guys responded, though.”
Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo knotted it up 1:16 later with a shot from the point past a screened Jeff Zatkoff.
Zatkoff stopped a number of good chances late and stoned all but one attempt in the shootout.
“Zatkoff did a wonderful job in net,” Morris said. “The game went back and forth and when we need him, he was there.”
Both teams came out swinging — quite literally — before slowing down the tempo in the third.
Jordan Hill and Bortuzzo fought midway through the first period. Three minutes later, Penguins winger Geoff Walker picked up a game misconduct after instigating Rob Mignardi following a hard hit along the boards.
The ejection meant more ice time for Paul Thompson, who grew up in Derry and was a standout at the University of New Hampshire before graduating last year.
Thompson said he had 20 or 30 friends and family members in the crowd watching him play in New Hampshire again.
He filled in for the ejected Walker on the power play, fired three shots, rang one off the crossbar, and nearly put home a wraparound bid in the third.
“It’s always fun coming back here,” Thompson said. “I wish it was a different result, but it’s fun to play in front of friends and family.”
Thompson drew a penalty in the first that led a goal from a hard slapshot off the stick of Niko Dimitrakos with 4.4 seconds remaining in the first.
“He played a very good game,” Hynes said. “He’s learning pro-style hockey.”
The Monarchs responded with two second period goals from Vey and Andrew Campbell.
Vey finished off a one-timer at the doorstep and Campbell made a smart play from the point, pinching down on a loose puck and beating a sliding Thiessen.
“This win gave us a successful weekend,” Morris said as the Monarchs took an overtime win Friday night. “Tonight was a good win.”