MANCHESTER — The Manchester Monarchs delivered a sweet Valentine’s Day win to their fans Friday night thanks to a Tyler Toffoli hat trick and four assists from Linden Vey.
Manchester improved to 32-14-7 with a 5-1 win over the Worcester Sharks (23-20-4) in front of 4,595 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena. The Monarchs play at Hartford tonight before closing the weekend at home Sunday at 3 p.m. against St. John’s.
The hat trick was Toffoli’s fourth with the Monarchs, establishing a franchise record (Richard Healey had three). Back down from Los Angeles, Toffoli teamed with former linemates Vey and Tanner Pearson (who had a goal) to good effect.
“He’s showed his scoring touch and the familiarity with his linemates from previous stints, I’m sure that had a lot to do with it,” said Monarchs head coach Mark Morris. “He’s a guy that has a gift to score and we saw a taste of that (in the game) and that line put up a lot of points. They did exactly what we hoped they would do and they’re guys that are vying for spots with the Kings and guys that have certainly been a big part of our success.”
Already on top 3-1, the Monarchs added to their lead with Toffoli’s second goal at 11:03 of the third period. Toffoli worked a nifty passing play with Vey, gaining the zone and backhanding a pass to Vey who then cut to the net on the right side deep before sliding the puck back to Toffoli for the finish to make it 4-1.
Toffoli completed his hat trick at 14:34, sniping from the right circle to beat Troy Grosenick after a perfect cross-ice feed from Vey to complete the scoring on the night.
“Right from the start we were getting chances,” Toffoli said. “Once we got our chances we eventually started putting them in and Veysie had a couple nice passes to me and I put them in.”
Worcester tied the game at 1-1 at 1:33 of the second period on a power-play goal from Freddie Hamilton (brother of Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton). Goalie Martin Jones stopped a shot from Chad Rau, but Hamilton was able to bang home the rebound from the low slot.
The Monarchs reclaimed the lead at 11:18 of the second when Toffoli scored his first of the night. Defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk led the play on the left wing, dropping the puck to Vey and then getting it back before sliding it over to Toffoli for a one-timer stuff-in past Grosenick from the doorstep.
Manchester extended to a 3-1 lead with a five-on-three power-play goal from Pearson, who recorded his team-best 17th tally. Pearson got it by accident, trying to send a pass across the top of the crease and getting a favorable bounce when Sharks defenseman Matt Tennyson laid his stick down to block the pass and deflected the puck into his own net.
Manchester dominated the first period but came out of the first 20:00 with only a 1-0 lead thanks to the strong play of Grosenick. The Monarchs outshot Worcester 18-6 in the first frame.
Jordan Weal scored at 8:25 of the first, netting his 12th of the season during a power play. Weal led the rush out of his own zone, hit Zach O’Brien with a pass and then broke in to complete the give-and-go. Weal took a return pass and backhanded a shot under the crossbar from the slot for the 1-0 lead.
Grosenick kept the game close with save after save, including denying Toffoli with a cuff save on a shorthanded breakaway with 1:23 remaining in the first or Toffoli might have had four goals on the night.