(Photo Credit: Rich Tilton / Manchester Monarchs)
MANCHESTER, NH. - John Dunbar tied a franchise record with six assists and a +6 record en route to the Norfolk Admirals (22-34-4-0) 8-6 victory over the Manchester Monarchs (31-19-7-4) on Sunday afternoon.
Norfolk allowed an early first period goal for the second consecutive game, allowing Monarchs forward Corey Ward to snag a loose puck in the slot and beat Philippe Desrosiers.
However, the Admirals had three answers in response to that early tally, first coming while down a man. T.J. Foster's first of the game came while shorthanded, evening the score at 1-1 just 9:34 into the first.
Less than two minutes later Nick MacNeil earned his first of the afternoon, placing a backhanded shot to the front of the net. The puck took a fortuitous bounce off of a Manchester defenders skate and by Jack Flinn to make it 2-1 Norfolk. Trevor Gerling earned an assist on the goal, his first in his first game with the team since being acquired from Greenville on Thursday.
To conclude the first period Joey Benik polished off an odd man rush with Foster and John Dunbar for his 10th of the season and first of three on the afternoon.
Manchester sliced the Norfolk lead in half to start the second period as Quentin Shore went coast-to-coast, gave the puck up to Matt Leitner and then beat Desrosiers to the glove side when Leitner dished it back. That made it a 3-2 Norfolk game.
It only took 29 seconds for the Admirals to reestablish that lead though, thanks to Nick MacNeil. Another Admirals newcomer, Scott Jacklin, fed the puck out high to Paul Cianfrini and the steady defenseman fired one that was tipped by the big #12 in front. That was the end of the afternoon for Jack Flinn of Manchester, who was replaced in net by Colin Stevens.
Eight minutes of play transpired before Manchester went on a three-goal frenzy, coming all the way back to take a 5-4 lead within just a five minute span. Ashton Rome, Tim Bozon and Joe Diamond all found the back of the net in a quick turn of events, giving the home team their first lead of the afternoon.
T.J. Foster was able to pull Norfolk back in the game before it slipped out of their grasp though, rattling off a persistent individual effort to make it 5-5. After having two of his own shots blocked from the slot area, Foster went and grabbed both rebounds before finally getting the third one through.
Then with just 1.7 seconds left in the frame a broken play led to Frankie Simonelli sliding a remarkable feed back door to a sitting Joey Benik. The St. Cloud State alum beat the buzzer and gave his team a 6-5 lead heading into the second intermission.
A few key saves from Desrosiers allowed Norfolk to hold on to their lead in the early stages of the third and eventually Frankie Simonelli extended that advantage to 7-5. With a delayed penalty on the ice, #77 found the rebound of a John Dunbar shot and beat Stevens on the blocker side.
Norfolk's final goal of the day came in a celebratory fashion, giving Joey Benik just the team's second hat trick of the season. John Dunbar made a phenomenal cross-ice pass to set up the one-time blast for the visiting team's eighth goal of the day. For Dunbar, he set the new record for most points by a player in the ECHL this season with his sixth assist, as well as entering the Admirals record book for being the first player to do it for the franchise in 22 years. The +6 rating also solidifies a tie at the top spot in the Norfolk record book for Dunbar.
Manchester would chime in a final tally late but it wasn't enough as they suffered the loss by a final score of 8-6.
Desrosiers earned the win in net for Norfolk, stopping 36 of 42. Despite entering in relief, Colin Stevens suffers the loss for Manchester, allowing four goals on 23 shots in 34 minutes.
The Admirals will now head to Reading, PA for a rare Tuesday night matchup against the Royals. Puck drop is set for 7:00 with broadcasts being available on 102.1 FM The Tide, ECHL.TV and at Buffalo Wild Wings on Laskin Road at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
Following the game the Admirals return home to Scope for St. Hat Trick's Day Weekend against the same Royals.
Friday, March 17 the team will have drink specials for a 7:30 puck drop and Saturday, March 18 is Sell Out The Scope Night, plus Pucks and Paws, as folks are allowed to bring their dog to the game for just a $5 donation to a local animal shelter. Additionally, there is a cap giveaway sponsored by BB&T, green ice and green jerseys to encompass the holiday flare. Following the game the team will be auctioning off the green jerseys to benefit Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Tickets for both games are on sale now on Ticketmaster.com and at the Norfolk Scope Arena box office.