Hats off to O'Neill, Monarchs
MANCHESTER — Right wing Brian O'Neill recorded a natural hat trick to lead the Manchester Monarchs to a 4-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms in front of 4,320 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night.
Manchester improved to 37-16-8 and will host Providence today at 3 p.m. Adirondack dropped to 24-28-14.
O'Neill notched goals 14, 15 and 16 on the season for his first career hat trick. It was the 28th all-time in Monarchs history and the fourth this season. Tanner Pearson had one and Tyler Toffoli had two. Jordan Weal assisted on all three O'Neill goals.
"Any time you get a hat trick, obviously that's a really good feeling. I've developed some chemistry with Weal and he's going to have chemistry with a lot of players he plays with because he's so good," O'Neill said. "It does feel good."
Adirondack spoiled Manchester goalie J.F. Berube's shutout bid with a power-play goal at 3:25 of the third period. Bruno Gervais one-timed a Tye McGinn cross-ice pass inside the far post from the left circle to make it a 4-1 score.
The Phantoms continued to make things interesting, scoring a five-on-three goal at 10:36 to cut the lead to 4-2. Nick Cousins made a one-touch pass from deep on the left side to Kris Newbury on the right side for a one-timer before Berube could dive across.
The Monarchs killed another Adirondack power play in the final 5:00 and survived a flurry in the final minute to close out the win, but it was not a third period Manchester head coach Mark Morris was pleased with.
"There were some head-scratchers there that put us in the (penalty) box. When you're in total control of the game and that stuff starts to mess with all the work you've done up to the point it's a little aggravating," Morris said. "I'd like to see us continue to play the way we did the first two periods."
Manchester took a 1-0 lead just 1:23 into the game on O'Neill's first of the night. O'Neill carried the puck into the right circle and snapped a shot on net that went through goalie Yann Danis and in.
O'Neill struck again at 15:21 of the first to make it 2-0. Weal made a nice play in the neutral zone to knock the puck out of the air on a Phantoms clearing attempt. Weal gained the line and sent a perfect lead pass to O'Neill in the slot and O'Neill finished by sliding the puck five-hole on Danis.
O'Neill completed his hat trick at 13:24 of the second period. Weal set up the goal for his third assist, dropping the puck to O'Neill on the left side. O'Neill cut across the slot, kicked the puck back to his stick and fired the puck inside the near post.
Nick Shore pushed the lead to 4-0 at 18:29. Newcomer Brayden McNabb made a nice cross-ice pass from the left circle to Shore deep on the right side for the one-timer past Danis.