MANCHESTER, NH – The Monarchs’ 2017-18 season is underway, and things have started off with an offensive punch. With three road games in the books, and one more to go before their return to the Jungle, Manchester has gotten off to a 2-1 start against division rivals.

Things started off on a low note for the Monarchs on October 14th, when they helped the Worcester Railers usher in their first ever ECHL season in a losing effort. With newcomer Evan Cowley in net, Manchester went down 1-0 midway through the first when Railers winger Wade Murphy beat Cowley gloveside for his first goal of the season.

The Railers would go up 2-0 at 5:43 of the second period when former Monarch and first-ever Railers captain Ashton Rome took a pass from winger Barry Almeida and flicked the puck past Cowley. This lead would be quickly cut in half, however, as the Monarchs powered back with a goal just five seconds later. After Railers goaltender Eamon McAdam deflected a point shot from the Monarchs’ Sam Kurker, newcomer Michael Doherty found the rebound and potted the goal on the backhand to make it 2-1.

Manchester would go on to tie the game up minutes later when Tony Cameranesi received a pass from linemate Jordan Smotherman and one-timed it between the legs of McAdam, drawing the game even at 2-2 at 10:57 of the second. 25 seconds later, the Monarchs would take the lead when Doherty found the back of the net a second time, scooping up a stray puck and putting it home past McAdam.

The resilient Railers would muster a tying goal later that period, after defenseman Patrick McNally danced around two Monarchs defenders and beat Cowley to knot the game at three goals apiece.

Then, in the 3rd frame, the Railers would find the lead again and keep it this time, when Ronkonkoma, NY native Frankie DiChiara stopped a clearing attempt by the Monarchs and took advantage, putting the puck into the cage and the nail in the coffin for the Monarchs. The Railers went on to win 4-3.

The Monarchs looked fairly strong in defeat, testing McAdam with 36 shots on goal. Discipline was a problem for both squads, with 13 power play opportunities between the two teams. The Monarchs had difficulty on special teams, however, being held scoreless on the power play, while allowing the Railers to score twice with the man advantage.

Manchester then headed north from Worcester into Canada to face last season’s North Division Finals opponents the Brampton Beast. It was there that the Monarchs picked up their first win of the new campaign, looking much more confident right out of the gate. The action started at 10:13 of the first, when Kurker found his own rebound to score his first professional goal, beating Beast netminder Marcus Hogberg.

Things held steady until 8:23 of the second when captain David Kolomatis broke the power play rut and scored his first goal of the season. Taking a cross-ice dish from Matt Leitner, Kolo snuck the puck behind Hogberg to put the Monarchs up 2-0. Brampton, however, responded shortly after when winger Jordan Boucher took advantage of the heavy power play pressure to beat Monarchs goalie Charles Williams to make it 2-1 at 10:07 of the second period.

The Monarchs responded later in the period on an odd-man rush, when Leitner moved the puck to Joel Lowry, who deflected the puck past Hogberg with his skate. After a quick review, it was called a goal and put the Monarchs up 3-1 with 4:15 left in the second.

The Beast would make a game of it with 4:30 left in the 3rd after captain Brandon Marino redirected a shot from defenseman Matt Petgrave past Williams to draw Brampton within one at 3-2. But with Hogberg pulled to give the Beast an extra man, Kevin Morris found the empty cage and put the puck in it with 41 seconds to go to clinch the 4-2 win for the Monarchs.

Manchester outshot Brampton 32-30, but their power play woes continued as they only scored once in eight attempts. They also allowed one goal by Brampton in six penalty kill situations, making their PK success rate only 75% in two games.

Brampton hosted the Monarchs again on October 17th, this time with an 11 AM start for Education Day. It was a hard-fought battle, and a high-scoring affair, but the Monarchs would eventually find victory in the overtime frame.

The Beast found their first lead of the season after only 33 seconds of the first period, when Cody Donaghey scored his first professional goal off a bizarre back-wall bounce that found itself between the skates of goalie Williams, then trickled into the net. This would begin a trend of pucks ricocheting off of the Monarchs goaltender for the night, as evidenced by Brampton’s second goal, when Marino fired a puck which rolled down Williams’s back and across the line at 12:49 of the first, making the Beast lead 2-0.

Less than a minute later, Colton Saucerman would chop the lead in half with a wicked one-timer on the power play which sailed past Brampton tender Michael McNiven to bring the Monarchs back within one at 13:33 of the first. Then, at 14:24, the Monarchs would tie the game when Lowry took the dish from Leitner and beat McNiven glove-side to pull the game even at 2-2.

The Monarchs would find the lead shortly into the second period, when center Cory Ward received a pass from Kurker and wristed it over the shoulder of McNiven to put the Monarchs up 3-2 after only 53 seconds. Lowry would add to his total at 9:39 of the second when he fired a shot through traffic and beat a screened McNiven to double the Manchester lead, 4-2.

However, Brampton would battle back. Marino worked his magic yet again, taking a shot from the goal line which deflected off the back of Williams’s stick and into the net to make the score 4-3 at 15:05 of the second. Then, after 13:10 of the third period, Beast D-man Reggie Traccitto found the back of the net on the power play after a give from speedy Chris Leveille, knotting the game up again at four goals a side. This would remain the status quo through regulation.

In the overtime period, a series of mistakes would create tense odd-man situations for both sides. Brampton began the overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage after a late too many men penalty by Manchester at 19:12 of the 3rd. They pressed the man advantage, putting pressure on Williams, who managed to keep the game alive. With the penalty killed off, the Monarchs found the will to win when Lowry set up Cameranesi to the left of the goal, who put the puck past an extended McNiven to take the 5-4 win.

Once again, the Monarchs outshot their opponents by a margin of 39 to 33. They found one goal in six power play attempts, while surrendering one out of four to the Beast.

While they lost four of their top five scorers from last season, the Monarchs seem to have returned with significant firepower. The return of Joel Lowry from Ontario, as well as the additions of Michael Doherty and Tony Cameranesi, have primed the Manchester offense, putting up 12 goals in three games so far. Doherty, Cameranesi, and Sam Kurker each have at least one point in each game this season, while Joel Lowry has led the goal-scoring effort with three goals in as many games. Last season’s points leader, Matt Leitner, has three assists so far and does not look to be slowing down from last year’s pace.

The high scoring has helped to mask some of the defensive lapses that the Monarchs have shown so far. Sloppy play has led to some tense odd-man situations for the opposition, and Manchester has surrendered ten goals in their three games, with four of those coming on the penalty kill. Despite this, there is only one player on the roster with a negative +/- (Tony Turgeon.)

Goaltending is the real question mark, as the offensive output can’t mask save percentage or goals-against. After his two games, Charles Williams sits at a .905 save percentage with a 2.89 goals against average, while Evan Cowley had a dreadful .871/4.05 split against Worcester.

The takeaway:

Any doubts there may have been about Manchester’s offense should at least be quieted after their first three games, though the real test is coming against arch-rivals Adirondack on Friday. However, they will need to tighten up defensively if they’re going to find long-term success. As callups and injuries mount throughout the season, four goals per game will not be a sustainable average. Coaches Richard Seeley and Jeff Giuliano will have to fine-tune the defense quickly before the weaknesses become too glaring and costly.

Notes:

  • Joel Lowry has tripled his goal total from last year, where he had only one goal in 40 games with the Ontario Reign.
  • Former Monarchs defenseman Teddy Doherty was accidentally credited an assist by the Monarchs’ Twitter feed on Sunday. He was a good sport about it. The assist belonged to rookie Michael Doherty.
  • Captain David Kolomatis is now one assist away from tying all-time Monarchs assist leader Gabe Gauthier. Gauthier, a center, played for the Monarchs from 2006-2010, and was last seen as the head coach of the now-defunct Las Vegas Storm of the WSHL.
  • After their first three games last year, Manchester was 1-1-0-1.
  • Small sample size, but the Monarchs sit tied for first in the North Division with the Wheeling Nailers, who have a game in hand.

The Monarchs return to action against the Adirondack Thunder on Friday, October 20th in Glens Falls, NY.

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