ICE BREAKERS MAKE POSITIVE STRIDES IN LOSS TO PROWLERS
by Jared Tennant
MENTOR, OH - The Mentor Ice Breakers were defeated by the visiting Port Huron Prowlers 7-4 on Friday night to open a two-game set at Mentor Ice Arena, but the final score didn't tell the full story of the game. Following a slow start that saw the Prowlers jump out to a 3-0 lead, the Ice Breakers used a rejuvenated effort to match Port Huron's four goals the rest of the way.
The third period was arguably the best Mentor has played since its current 12-game losing streak began in late January. A three-goal loss is never ideal, but the performance marked a step in the right direction for a club that's seen an incredible amount of turnover over the last week. The Ice Breakers scored four goals in a game for the first time since January 20.
"Tonight, we had guys in the locker room that wanted to be here," said Ice Breakers Head Coach Sebastian Ragno. "We had guys that were 100 percent buying in and we had guys that were doing the little things right. I don't know that we had the most skilled lineup in the league, but guys wanted to do the small things and do the right thing."
Port Huron netted a pair of goals over the first nine minutes of the contest thanks to former AHLer Matt Rupert, who was a two-time President's Cup champion with the London Knights. Dalton Jay stretched the lead to 3-0 at 4:30 of the second period.
In his professional debut, Billy Rapone scored on the backdoor off feeds by Paul Hannah and Isaiah Crawford just over a minute after Jay's tally. Mike Moroso answered shortly thereafter, pushing the visitors' advantage to 4-1.
Only 16 seconds after Moroso scored, the chaos continued when Dzmitry Daniliuk found twine for the second time this season on a one-timer. At 9:55, Moroso struck again with his 11th goal in only five games against the Ice Breakers, making it 5-2.
Portillo capped off Port Huron's four-goal second frame at 18:01, notching his first career 20-goal campaign. With the Prowlers leading 6-2 on the scoreboard and 33-23 in shots on goal, Mentor netminder Jordan Brant was pulled from the game to open the third period.
After Jonathon Juliano capitalized on a Prowlers power play at 6:27, Josh Newberg scored back-to-back goals separated by exactly two minutes to cut the deficit to 7-4. Brendan Mackenzie assisted on both tallies while Joshua Lemke factored in on Newberg's first goal. Both players were making their Ice Breakers debuts.
Overall, the Ice Breakers outshot the Prowlers 21-10 in what was a very encouraging third period. Newcomer Kent Nusbaum stopped nine of 10 shots in the third period in his first FPHL action since a brief stint with the Watertown Wolves last season.
For Port Huron, Rupert (2-1-3), Moroso (2-1-3) and Jay (1-2-3) all had productive nights while Austin Fetterly, Matt Graham and Zachary Zulkanycz dished out two assists apiece. Goaltender Blake Scott stopped 40 of 44 shots and robbed Mackenzie on two separate occasions in the third period. With the win, Scott improved his perfect record to 10-0-0-0.
The Ice Breakers had six different players appearing in their first professional contests of the season and an additional three players making their pro debuts. It was a gutsy effort by Mentor against a deep and talented Prowlers team. The Ice Breakers will look to build on their strong third frame tomorrow night as the series wraps up from Mentor Ice Arena.