MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Manchester Monarchs used two power play goals, including a 5-on-3 marker, to top the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 5-2 on Saturday afternoon at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Brian O’Neill and Michael Mersch got the extra man tallies in the second period, as the Monarchs solidified their spot as the top squad in the Eastern Conference.
The two teams had a long feeling out process for most of the first period. Both the Sound Tigers and Monarchs took too many men penalties before the midway point of the opening frame, but neither was able to capitalize.
The Sound Tigers got the scoring started in the closing minutes of the first period. John Persson collected a pass from Alan Quine and slid a shot across the ice that beat Monarchs goaltender Patrik Bartosak five-hole to give Bridgeport the 1-0 lead. Persson’s 10th of the year was the only goal in the first 20 minutes.
Period number two started with the Sound Tigers on the penalty kill after C.J. Stretch went off for tripping. The Monarchs capitalized, as Brian O’Neill scored his 15th goal of the season through a screen. The power play tally tied the game at 1-1 less than two minutes into the second period.
After a pair of unsuccessful power plays by the Sound Tigers, Manchester got two straight power plays for a 53-second 5-on-3. Manchester called timeout to set up their man advantage and it worked, as Michael Mersch was left unmarked in front of the net and tapped home his 10th goal of the season to make it 2-1.
The Sound Tigers got their best chance to tie the game up with five minutes left in the second period. Justin Courtnall found C.J. Stretch with a gorgeous pass in the slot, but Stretch was stoned by Bartosak to keep the Monarchs up by one.
Moments after the Bartosak save, Manchester got their third straight goal on a 4-on-4. With both Cory Conacher and David Van der Gulik in the box for roughing, the Monarchs took advantage of the open ice. Jordan Weal skated circles around the Sound Tigers zone before ripping a shot low to the blocker side of Bridgeport goalie David Leggio to make it 3-1.
Another 4-on-4 early on in the third period led to yet another goal. This time it was Bridgeport getting on the board thanks to Kael Mouillierat. The Sound Tigers forward made a brilliant move, dragging the puck between his own legs before roofing home his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
It looked as if the Sound Tigers were going to even the game up, but a fluky deflection put the game out of reach. A shot from the point by Andrew Bodnarchuk was tipped in front by Sean Backman to make it 4-2. Backman also added an empty netter to finish the scoring.
Special teams were the difference in the contest, as Bridgeport went 0-for-5 on the power play while Manchester went 2-for-5. Leggio made 27 saves in a losing effort, while Bartosak stopped 34 of 36 for the win.
The Sound Tigers close out another three games in three days set with a contest tomorrow at home against the Hershey Bears. Puck drop is set for 3:00 p.m.
Notes: Despite having the league’s best power play going into Friday night, the Sound Tigers have gone 0-for-9 on the man advantage this weekend…Meanwhile, the penalty kill, which was 14-for-14 last weekend, has killed just five of the nine power plays it has faced…The Sound Tigers have won just one regulation game in their last 15 tries.