MANCHESTER, NH – Right wing Brian O’Neill registered four points (2-2=4) in his first game back from injury as the Manchester Monarchs defeated the Portland Piratesand gained a 3-1 advantage in the VIP Cup Series at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday night.
Manchester (20-5-1-4) leads the Atlantic Division with 45 points. Portland (10-10-1-4) is ranked fourth in the Atlantic Division with 25 points.
“Obviously, we’ve had nights when it hasn’t gone well,” said Head Coach Mark Morris. “I guess all the circuits in the brain were working. We definitely brought our work boots tonight.”
O’Neill scored his second goal of the game on a one-timer from the right face-off circle to give the Monarchs a 3-0 advantage in the first frame. Monarchs forward Nick Shore brought the puck down to the right side of the net before leaving it behind for a trailing O’Neill who put the puck past Portland goaltender Mark Visentin’s left shoulder at 17:21in the first period for his seventh goal of the season.
Shore opened the scoring early with a power play goal at the 2:29 mark of the first period to give the Monarchs a 1-0 lead. Left wing Andy Andreoff and right wing Brandon Kozun both fired shots on the net before Shore eventually collected a rebound and snuck the puck past Visentin for his fourth goal of the season.
The Monarchs went up 2-0 when O’Neill scored his sixth goal of the season, 10:55 into the first period. Andreoff and Shore both had shots on goal before O’Neill collected a rebound and sent the puck to the left of Visentin for the score.
Portland got on the scoreboard when left wing Jordan Martinook scored his fifth goal of the season at the 19:05 point of the first period to make it a 3-1 game. After a shot on goal from left wing Brandon McMillan, Martinook collected a rebound off Monarchs goaltender J.F. Berube and was able to slide the puck into the net to bring the score within two.
Manchester responded when center Jordan Weal scored his seventh goal of the season with 2.8 seconds remaining in the opening frame. O’Neill brought the puck down along the left wall before sending a centering pass to a streaking Weal, who corralled the puck and slid it past the right leg of Visentin for the Manchester’s fourth goal of the night.
The Monarchs continued the scoring when Andreoff scored his fifth goal of the season only 2:28 into the second period. Defenseman Colin Miller received a pass from O’Neill at the right face-off circle before centering the puck to Andreoff. The left wing rifled a top-shelf strike past the left shoulder of Pirate’s replacement goaltender Louis Domingue, who started the second period between the pipes in relief of Visentin. The assist marked the fourth point for O’Neill on the night.
Monarchs left wing Tanner Pearson added to the scoring when he found the net on a power play just 1:42 into the final frame. Center Linden Vey and Pearson both skated over the blueline into the Portland zone along the left wall. Vey passed the puck to his right, where Pearson handled the pass and sent a shot toward the net from the left face-off circle. The puck sailed over the glove of Domingue and into the top left corner of the net for Pearson’s 11th goal of the season.
Portland added a second goal to their total when right wing Keven Veilleux scored a power play goal at 9:02 of the third period. Veilleux received a pass from defenseman Brandon Gormley and sent a slap shot past Berube and into the left side of the net for his second goal of the season.
Berube (11-4-2) earned his 11th win of the season stopping 27-of-29 shots. Visentin (8-9-2) took his ninth loss of the season stopping 10-of-14 shots. Domingue (2-0-1) saved 17-of-19 shots in relief of Visentin.
Manchester was 2-for-7 on the power play. Portland went 1-for-7 with the man advantage.