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Essery's Big Third Period Lift Ice Breakers Over Rumble Bees

January 20, 2020 - Federal Prospects Hockey League (FPHL) - Mentor Ice Breakers News Release

MENTOR, OH - Last season, Mentor Ice Breakers forward Mark Essery was one of the most prolific scorers on Northeast Ohio's Federal Prospects Hockey League expansion squad, scoring at a point-per-game pace over 51 appearances. Prior to Monday afternoon's contest against the Battle Creek Rumble Bees, the Framingham, Massachusetts native was playing well but not living up to the lofty standards he set as an FPHL rookie last year.

That changed in the third period as Essery poured in three crucial goals, including an empty netter with 0.5 seconds remaining to seal a 4-2 Ice Breakers win.

"We haven't been as productive as of late because of ups and downs throughout the season," Essery said. "We're all persevering and everybody on the ice is a quality player."

Former Carolina Thunderbird and Columbus River Dragon Jiri Pestuka, who went scoreless through his first 17 games this season, drew first blood just over five minutes into the opening frame, skating across the blue line before firing a wrist shot that beat Battle Creek netminder Morgan Hudson low on the glove side.

"I saw open space so I started skating to it," said Pestuka. "I saw the d-man open his legs so I tried to shoot it through them and luckily it went in."

Pestuka's tally came after Mentor had to kill off a high-sticking minor to Blake Naida as well as a double minor against Brody Duncan, resulting in a lengthy 5 on 3 power play for the Bees.

With the clock ticking down in the second period, Battle Creek was awarded another 5 on 3 advantage thanks to penalties taken by Mentor's Stepan Jirovec and Duncan. This time, the Rumble Bees converted with only three seconds left in the period as Marco Luciani netted his fifth goal of the season.

Tied at 1-1 early in the third, Alex Morrow appeared to score to put the Ice Breakers up 2-1. Instead, the goal was disallowed as it was ruled that Hudson was interfered with. It marked the second time in as many games that Morrow scored a pivotal third-period goal that was called back.

Rather than feel sorry for themselves, the Ice Breakers responded shortly after when Thomas Stuart-Dant fed Essery for a one-timer over the shoulder of Hudson.

"That play was a result of everyone doing their job," Essery explained. "We had Alex crashing the net and I was hanging high. [Stuart-Dant] worked hard down below the goal and found me in the slot."

At the 11-minute mark, Essery used a strong individual effort to get the puck to Morrow, who skated into the Battle Creek zone before feeding the puck back to Essery for a backhanded finish to make it 3-1 Mentor.

To their credit, the shorthanded Rumble Bees didn't give up with everything stacked against them. Marc Steele was tagged for a tripping minor at 17:13, seemingly putting the contest out of reach. But Jakub Volf created a turnover and used his speed to scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway to cut the lead in half at 3-2. It was the second shorthanded tally of the year for the Bees, who dressed only 13 skaters for the game.

Battle Creek was able to pull Hudson for an extra attacker following the expiration of Steele's penalty, but Essery's empty-net goal capped off the 4-2 win and his first hat trick of the year.

Mentor outshot Battle Creek 52-32, but Hudson was up to the challenge, making 48 saves. Ice Breakers defensemen Stepan Jirovec dished out two assists for his first career multi-point game while Alex Morrow also added a pair of helpers. In addition to his first goal of the season, Pestuka notched his first two-point effort as an Ice Breaker as he also added an assist.

Ice Breakers goaltender Jordan Brant moved to 3-4-0-0 after making 30 saves. Mentor is back in action next weekend with a three-in-three weekend against the Carolina Thunderbirds, including a matinee game on Sunday to wrap up the series.

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