NORFOLK, VA – Another 50+ shot night wasn’t enough for the Manchester Monarchs Saturday night, as they failed to hold off the Norfolk Admirals in a 4-3 overtime defeat at the Scope.
The Monarchs (5-3-1-1) took an early lead against the Admirals (3-7-0-0) and looked dominant after the first period, but the home team was hungry for the win and battled back despite being outshot 54-32 by Manchester. The Norfolk win marked the end of a six-game skid, while also providing Manchester with their fifth point in three games.
The Monarchs struck first in the contest, when at 2:46 of the first period Jordan Lavallee-Smotherman received the puck from Tony Turgeon, letting loose a shot from the slot which was good enough to beat Norfolk goalie Jamie Murray on the stick side to make it 1-0 Manchester.
Centerman Cory Ward would make it 2-0 Monarchs at 5:20 of the first when a blocked pass turned into an opportunity. Ward was charging the net 2-on-1 with linemate François Beauchemin when his pass was stuffed by defenseman TJ Melancon. The puck found itself back on Ward’s stick, and with Murray cheating to the other side of the net, it was an easy shot into the empty side of the cage.
It became 2-1 later in the period when Admirals d-man Michael Young put it home. With Murray pulled on a delayed call, Norfolk pressed the man advantage. Young received the puck in the high slot from Alex Pompeo and wristed it through the zone and past Charles Williams’s glove to cut the Monarchs’ lead in half at 13:58 of the first.
Manchester went up by two a second time at 14:27 of the first. Smotherman lifted the puck high into the air from the defensive end, which found an unencumbered Zac Lynch and sent him streaking toward Murray. After a slick deke, Lynch potted the goal around Murray’s skate and put the Monarchs up 3-1.
Murray would hold steady from there, and the Admirals’ offense would come to life. Tommy Schutt would pull Norfolk back within one when he received the puck after a bad neutral zone turnover by the Monarchs. He broke off into the Monarchs’ end and put it past Williams’s blocker to make the score 3-2 at 16:08 of the second. The Monarchs would outshoot the Admirals 18-4 in the second but came away with nothing to show for it.
It would take until 6:20 of the third for another puck to find twine. After Turgeon was awarded a game misconduct (more on this later) and with Lynch already in the box for the seventh slashing call of the game, the Admirals would strike for the tie. Working the 5-on-3, Norfolk winger Grant Besse set up at the top of the crease and angled a pass from Young past Williams to tie the game at 3 apiece.
Things stayed knotted up through the end of regulation, sending the Monarchs to their third overtime of the year. It ended on a lapse of judgment when Williams played the puck behind his own net and it ended up on the stick of Admirals center Angelo Miceli, who wasted no time wrapping around to put it home and steal the game for Norfolk 4-3.
Despite setting yet another season-high in shots (their third in the past four games,) the Monarchs couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities. Murray deserves a lot of the credit, but there were a few things that Manchester could have done better, as well. Discipline was an issue once again, with the Monarchs giving the Admirals eight power-play chances on the night, with the game-tying goal coming on the one they converted. For their part, the Monarchs’ power-play went 0-for-7 on the night, falling back after making some great strides in the past two games. There were a few frustrating turnovers, as well, one of which resulted in a goal. Finally, Williams’s overtime flub was a deflating end to an otherwise successful road trip, but the game wasn’t all bad.
The Monarchs’ PK streak ran to 19 before ending in the third period, and they now find themselves with an 88.5% success rate while a man down. If they can bring the number of penalties-per-game down, that number will certainly mean more wins down the road.
And, of course, there are the 54 shots to talk about. This was the Monarchs’ third 50+ shot game (and sixth 40+) on the year. In fact, they’ve only had fewer than 35 twice. If the defense can tighten up just a little, and the Monarchs can keep bodies out of the box, there’s a lot to like going forward.
On Turgeon – it was undeniable that Turgeon threw a headbutt at Admirals’ center Domenic Alberga, but further analysis showed that Alberga unmistakably initiated cranium-on-cranium contact seconds earlier. However, it doesn’t matter what happens, only what the referee sees. Should Turgeon have done it? No. Was it understandable, though?
The changes to the slashing rules reared their ugly head in this contest. Four of the five penalties called in the first period were for slashing. This is being felt throughout North American hockey, but it really breaks up the flow of the game. More fuel for the anti-Crosby contingent.
Martin Nemcik saw his first action with the Monarchs. The 25-year-old Slovakian played 57 ECHL games last season between Wichita and Utah, where he amassed one goal and eight assists. 114 PIMs, too, which the Monarchs honestly don’t need any help with.
Despite the loss, the OTL point kept the Monarchs in a first-place tie with the Wheeling Nailers, who picked up two points of their own in a 5-1 victory over the Indy Fuel on Saturday. The Monarchs and Nailers don’t have their first game until January 5th, but there’s a good chance their six games could have playoff implications.
The Monarchs have six days off before their next string of games sees them playing 10-in-16. They host the Jacksonville Icemen (0-3-1-0) on the 10th, a team they have never faced in any iteration, followed by a home-and-home with the Worcester Railers (5-2-1-0, 3rd in North) on the 11th and 12th. Game time at the SNHU for Jacksonville is 7 pm EST.