MANCHESTER, N.H. – After falling behind by two goals early in the game, the Manchester Monarchs battled back with a strong second period effort, going on to defeat the Norfolk Admirals 4-3 at the SNHU.
As has happened so often lately, the Monarchs (36-20-3-2) found themselves behind early, letting up the first goal for the tenth straight contest. But the Admirals (23-33-5-1) couldn’t hold off Manchester in the second period, as the Monarchs put up 16 shots on goal and overwhelmed goaltender Jamie Murray and recovered from being down 3-1.
The Admirals kicked things off at 3:20 of the first on a power-play goal by Michael Young. Former Monarch Darik Angeli steadied the puck at the goal line, passing across to find young waiting on the other side of Monarchs’ goaltender Evan Cowley. Young beat Cowley’s glove to give the Admirals the 1-0 lead.
They would make it 2-0 less than a minute later, at 4:03 of the opening frame. Dominic Alberga skated the puck into the Monarchs’ end, spotting Tommy Schutt making a move on net. Alberga sent the pass to Schutt, who took the shot from the slot and past Cowley to double the Norfolk advantage.
The Monarchs would answer quickly, however, on a goal by L.A. Kings prospect Spencer Watson. Matt Marcinew carried the puck down the ice and into the Norfolk zone, with Watson following behind. Marcinew made the drop pass to Watson, who took a wrister from the left circle and bested Murray to make it 2-1.
Norfolk would regain their two-goal lead on the power-play, just 32 seconds into the second period. After Brodie Dupont slapped a shot from the left faceoff circle that was handled by Cowley, it was Alberga waiting to take the rebound and the shot. Cowley couldn’t handle Alberga’s shot and the Admirals took the lead to 3-1.
But the Monarchs struck back quickly just 23 seconds later. Skating in a two-on-one rush with Rob Hamilton, Colton Saucerman received the puck from Hamilton to the left of Murray and wristed the puck on net from the circle. Murray’s stick was late and the Monarchs pulled within one, making it 3-2.
After a sustained offensive assault, the Monarchs would finally crack the code at 15:44 of the second, when scoring leader Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman found number 31 on the season. Watson passed the puck through the neutral zone to a streaking Smotherman, who broke free and made the move on Murray. Murray’s glove was too slow to stop the backhand shot and the score would be 3-3.
The Monarchs would add 13 more shots to the total in the third, but Murray held strong. Cowley would also not yield, and it was off to overtime for the 11th time this season for the Monarchs. It would only take 30 seconds for the Monarchs to complete the comeback. After Eric Schurhamer‘s shot was deflected by Murray, Kevin Morris would pick up the rebound. Morris pushed the puck back between the circles to a waiting Cory Ward, who would wrist the puck back on net and past Murray to give the Monarchs a 4-3 overtime victory.
The Takeaway – This was a should-win game for the Monarchs, who are fighting for every inch down the stretch to hold off the Adirondack Thunder. There were some areas of concern, like ceding the early lead and allowing a pair of power-play goals, while going 0-for-5, but at this point in the season, a win is a win. With Adirondack dropping their game against Worcester in overtime, the Monarchs have a two-point cushion over their rivals with one game in hand. Being able to gut out a win after falling behind early is a good skill to have.
But really, gotta improve on the power-play, and gotta stop letting up that first goal. But at least they’ve put the losing streak behind them, and now it’s time to look forward.
Looking at the playoff picture a little: Worcester is still technically in this, and could technically (if not realistically) still win the North. With 13 games left on their slate, the Railers’ number is 87. That means: the Monarchs need five wins to clinch a playoff spot. They play their next two games against Utah at home, followed by Reading once and the Thunder twice. After that, every game is in-division, with two in Reading, one in Wheeling, one last tilt with the Thunder in Glens Falls, and finally a home-and-home with the Railers.
Those Utah games are should-win games for the Monarchs; the Grizzlies are 6th in the Mountain Division, ahead of only the woeful Rapid City Rush. If they can pull off these wins, they should be able to find at least six points in those other games. Expect the Monarchs in the playoffs for sure. What seed is an entirely different story.
Notes –The return of Watson has been a good spark for the Monarchs – he’s got four goals in five games since coming back from Ontario, and 38 in 37 with Manchester this season.
Smotherman’s two points gives him sole possession of the second-place spot in ECHL scoring points, with 65. He trails only Shawn Szydlowski of the Fort Wayne Komets, who has 68.
The Monarchs return to action on Friday, March 16th when they host the Utah Grizzlies. Puck drops at 7 pm EDT.
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