THIRD PERIOD BARRAGE SENDS PROWLERS PAST ICE BREAKERS
by Jared Tennant
MENTOR, OH - For two periods of Saturday night's game between the Mentor Ice Breakers and Port Huron Prowlers, the two clubs looked evenly matched and played to a 3-3 tie. The depth and veteran leadership of Port Huron proved to be the difference as the Prowlers overwhelmed Mentor in the third frame with four goals, including a pair over the final five minutes of play.
Prowlers player-assistant Matt Graham, the FPHL's third-leading scorer with 70 points (19-51-70), led the way with a pair of goals and an assist while Justin Portillo also chipped in three points (1-2-3).
Early in the contest, Brandon Contratto was called for a faceoff violation, putting the Ice Breakers on the power play just two minutes into the game. A burst of speed from Graham led to a breakaway and a shorthanded tally for a 1-0 Prowlers lead.
Mentor answered at 7:49 when Steven Fowler ripped a backhander on net that trickled past Port Huron netminder Chris Paulin. Justin Portillo ensured a Port Huron lead at the first intermission when netted his 21st of the year.
Austin Weber found twine less than three minutes into the second frame for his first professional goal. The former Battle Creek Rumble Bee had logged one assist in 19 FPHL contests heading into the game.
At 10:54, Alfonso Diaz scored his first of the year, snapping a lengthy power play drought and cutting the deficit in half at 3-2. Newcomer Brendan Mackenzie factored in with an assist for his third point in two games with Mentor while captain Thomas Stuart-Dant notched his second helper on the weekend.
Fowler tied the game at 3-3 almost two minutes later for his second goal of the evening. Momentum seemed to be on Mentor's side until Josh Newberg was sent to the box for tripping, giving the dangerous Port Huron power play another opportunity. Mentor managed to kill off the first 29 seconds of the infraction to maintain a tie at the second break.
The Ice Breakers nearly made it through the penalty kill unscathed, but Matt Graham found the back of the net with only seven seconds left on the power play on a scramble in front of the net to restore the Prowlers' lead and silence the fans at Mentor Ice Arena.
From there, it was all Port Huron as Jonathon Juliano, Zachary Zulkanycz and Sage Cetrone powered the visitors to a 7-3 lead. Mentor had nearly 90 seconds of 5 on 3 power play time but couldn't solve Paulin, who turned aside all nine shots he saw in the final frame.
Between the pipes, Kent Nusbaum played admirably for the Ice Breakers but took the loss after making 43 saves. Paulin moved to 13-6-0, stopping 31 of 34 shots. Mentor blueliner Dzmitry Daniliuk dished out a pair of assists for his third multi-point effort on the season.
The Ice Breakers won't have much time to dwell on the loss as they head west to Danville for a Sunday night contest against the Dashers. Meanwhile, Port Huron will prepare for a full slate of road action next weekend with a pair of games against Watertown and a matchup with Battle Creek.