Monarchs win the war, and the shootout, too
Worcester Sharks Tommy Wingels, left, and Manchester Monarchs Richard Clune, drop the gloves in the first period of their game Sunday at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester. (MARK BOLTON)
MANCHESTER — Elton John sang that Saturday night’s all right for fighting. Turns out Sunday afternoon isn’t bad, either.
The Manchester Monarchs claimed a 2-1 shootout win over Worcester in front of 4,012 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Sunday. It was another physical game between the two Atlantic Division rivals and featured four fights.
“It’s been a war every time we’ve played them and it’s been a war ever since I’ve been here,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “Those guys play hard and a good, honest game and they’ve got a lot of firepower, too. I thought we did a real good job defensively.”
Justin Azevedo scored for Manchester (14-10-1) in the fourth round of the shootout and Brodie Reid matched it in the same frame for Worcester (8-6-6) and the shootout was tied 1-1 after the first 10 attempts.
Monarchs captain Marc-Andre Cliche scored in the sixth round but Tony Lucia also scored to keep the sudden death shootout going. Manchester rookie Robbie Czarnick was able to beat Tyson Sexsmith with a backhand shot in round seven and Jeff Zatkoff stacked the pads to snuff Ryan Del Monte to end the game.
“Real key goals by Cliche and Czarnick and Azevedo. Those guys pulled through for us,” Morris said. “And Zatkoff was stellar. He made some unbelievable saves in regulation and obviously did a great job in the shootout.”
The win was the eighth consecutive at home for Manchester and the fourth in a row over the Sharks. All four wins against Worcester have been by a single goal. Manchester has won eight of its last nine games overall.
Worcester tied the game at 1-1 at 8:46 of the third period, forcing overtime and the eventual shootout. James Livingston intercepted the puck behind the Manchester cage and cut to the left post. Zatkoff made the save but the rebound went to Lucia and he fired the puck inside the far post.
It was the only puck to elude Zatkoff in regulation as he made 38 saves, 20 in the first period alone. Zatkoff was sharp all game, seeing the puck well through traffic, reacting quickly on re-directed shots and coming up with several show-stopping saves.
The effort was a nice rebound for Zatkoff, who allowed three goals in the first period of Friday night’s 4-1 loss at Binghamton.
“I didn’t like the way I started personally on Friday. Coming into today I wanted to focus on the start and get into it,” Zatkoff said. “It was nice. Worcester throws a lot of pucks at the net and you’re able to make the saves and get into a rhythm early on and that’s what I was able to do.”
The rough stuff started early with two and a half fights in the first period. Justin Johnson and Shark winger Jimmy Bonneau went at it a little less than 3:00 in. Manchester’s Rich Clune tangled with Tommy Wingels late in the period and Bonneau later tried to entice Jordan Nolan into a scrap, but Nolan declined while Bonneau dropped the gloves and earned himself a solo penalty.
Dwight King gave Manchester a 1-0 lead 2:55 into the second period. Brandon Kozun sent King into the Worcester zone. King fired a shot on net that Shark defender Matt Irwin deflected past his own goaltender. Kozun’s assist on the play extended his points streak to five games.
The second period featured two more fights as Nolan and Matt Pelech engaged in a brief exchange of punches that ended with Pelech on top. With less than 2:00 to go in the frame, Azevedo engaged in a rare fight, trading punches admirably with Nathan Moon.
The teams will meet another seven times this season, including another Sunday matinee in Manchester December 18, and more fireworks are likely. The Monarchs are now off until a two-game road trip at Providence Friday and Springfield Saturday before hosting Portland on Sunday.