Toffoli hat trick powers Monarchs
Manchester's Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson celebrate Toffoli's first-period goal against the Portland Pirates at Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester on Saturday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER – Manchester Monarchs rookie Tyler Toffoli has the Portland Pirates' number, and that number is three.
Toffoli recorded three goals for his second hat trick of the season against the Portland Pirates to lead Manchester to a 5-3 win in front of 4,382 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday night. The Monarchs' win snapped Portland's six-game winning streak.
Toffoli now has eight goals total against Portland and his linemates Tanner Pearson and Linden Vey also had strong nights. Pearson notched two assists and Vey had a goal and assist.
“It was a good game. I had a lot of chances. I just tried to get the puck on net and they started going in for me,” said Toffoli, who is now tied with Brandon Kozun with 22 points for the team scoring lead. “Every time we play them I'm feeling good and our line is really clicking.”
The win improved Manchester to 13-12-4 and sent the team into the Christmas break on a positive note.
“It's huge because those positive thoughts carry with you,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “I told the guys in the locker room (that) we're going to reboot. Step back, enjoy your families, enjoy the holidays and when we come back, let's make some noise.”
Leading 3-2 in the third period, Toffoli scored his second of the game at 17:17. Working the power play, Vey made a perfect pass from the right side low to Toffoli on the left and Toffoli finished with a one-timer past Chad Johnson. It was the third Monarchs power-play goal in six chances on the night.
Portland (16-11-2) would not go away, scoring a goal at 17:51 to make it a 4-3 game. Andy Miele deflected a Chris Brown pass by Peter Mannino to keep the game close. But Toffoli put an empty net goal home with 23 seconds remaining to ice the win.
“I thought we played great,” said Mannino (27 saves). “Portland's hot right now and we knew that coming in. They're not going to stop, they're feeling good right now. They're a very good team.”
Manchester took a 3-1 lead with a Vey power-play goal at 7:05 of the second period. Pearson sent a pass across the ice from the right boards and Vey's centering pass for Toffoli hit a Portland stick and went through Talbot's legs for the goal.
Portland had a goal waved off in the period, but was able to net one that counted with just 1.3 seconds remaining in the second. Working the power play, Pirate defenseman Michael Stone whistled a slap shot over the net. The puck bounced to Ethan Werek on the left post and Mannino flopped over the try and tie it up but could not before it trickled into the cage for a 3-2 score.
A wild first period saw three special teams goals, including a shorthanded goal for each side. Manchester opened the scoring at 4:52 with a shorty from Dwight King. Marc-Andre Cliche stole the puck at neutral ice and sent King into the Portland zone. King blasted a slap shot from the top of the left circle to beat Johnson off the crossbar stick-side.
The Pirates answered with a shorthanded tally at 8:03. Rob Klinkhammer chased down a loose puck on the left wing boards and raced in, ripping a shot off the bar and in stick-side, resembling King's goal.
The Monarchs took a 2-1 lead at 8:39 with a power-play goal from Toffoli, who had a chance in the slot and fanned on the shot. But his second try beat Johnson inside the pipe stick-side for the first of what would become a hat trick.
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ONE-TIMERS: Manchester is now 9-1 on Saturdays this season…Kozun left the game in the first period after going hard into the boards. X-rays showed nothing broken, but he did suffer a lower body bruise…Mannino improved to 6-2-0 with the win over his former team…Manchester is off until Wednesday when it hosts Worcester at 7 p.m.