MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs played three at home over the weekend, claiming victory in all three matchups and extending their winning streak to seven.
The Monarchs (15-7-1-1) played host to both the Norfolk Admirals (7-16-1-0) and the Reading Royals (13-8-2-0) and decisively bested both visitors, scoring twelve goals over the three-game set, while surrendering only three. The seven-game winning streak is the second-longest for any team in the ECHL this season.
The Monarchs were primed to match the longest with a victory over their next opponent, the struggling Jacksonville IceMen (4-13-2-2) Wednesday night, and surpass it with a win over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (13-9-2-0), the current holders of the league’s longest winning streak at eight games.
During the run, the Monarchs’ offensive production has come from all directions, with both established team mainstays and relative newcomers piling up the points. The most significant contributions came from Sam Kurker, who has been a legitimate threat to score nearly every time he’s had the puck since joining the squad this season, and Springfield Thunderbirds transfer Matt Buckles, who has looked incredibly sharp on the ice so far. Both picked up five points over the weekend, often contributing to one another’s efforts, and each tallying two goals and three assists. Honorable mentions go out to Colton Saucerman and Michael Doherty, collectors of four assists.
Equally as impressive was the play in net for the Monarchs, with starter Charles Williams picking up two wins, as well as his first professional shutout. Williams stopped 31 of 33 against the Admirals on night one and blanked the Royals while facing 19 shots on night two. It’s safe to say that the defense played a role in that effort, but you honestly can’t take anything away from Williams, unequivocally the best goaltender in the ECHL to this point of the season. With Evan Cowley shuttling back and forth between Manchester and Springfield, having Williams look so consistently solid has been great for the morale of the Monarchs, and has likely allowed coaches Seeley and Giuliano to let the offense go harder without fear.
Not to be overlooked, however, is newly acquired Branden Komm, who picked up his first win of the season against the Admirals on Sunday afternoon. Komm, late of the Quad City Mallards, stopped 37 shots while surrendering only one goal against the Admirals, which is more than you can ask for from a guy who hadn’t started a game in nearly a month. Komm suffered his first loss Wednesday night, at the hands of the Jacksonville Icemen.
It wasn’t all rosy, though: the power-play has slid backward once again, going 2-for-22 in their last four games. Special teams will always be a sticking point with this team, and while it’s all good as long as they get the W, you gotta get those goals, guys.
What more is there to say? Considering all of the attrition the team has faced, between injuries to key contributors and call-ups to Springfield and elsewhere, this squad continues to impress in nearly every facet of the game. The coaches have done an excellent job filling the holes as they come, the team has stepped up at every opportunity, and the results speak for themselves. The Monarchs hold a two-point lead over the Wheeling Nailers (14-9-2-0) right now. Yes, one could nitpick (as this column clearly shows) but before every home game, the immortal words of Dominic Toretto ring through the SNHU, and they ring true: “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning.” As long as the Monarchs keep scratching up the wins, who’s complaining?
Other newcomers making their season debuts with the Monarchs: former Adirondack Thunder menace Mikkel Aagaard, who was assigned to Manchester by the Thunderbirds, and former Monarch turned current Monarch Alexx Privitera, who had been toiling overseas with Medvescak Zagreb before returning stateside on December 8th. Aagaard picked up a goal and an assist over the weekend.
Williams’s line right now: 10-3-1-0, 1.98 GAA, .936 sv%, 1 shutout. The hero of Canton right there.
The Monarchs have already surpassed their winning streak from this time last season. In fact, the last time they had a streak longer than six was March 24 through April 9th, 2010. Their leading scorer was a guy named Bud Holloway, the captain was Drew Bagnall, and starting goaltender was Jonathan Bernier. The Monarchs cruised to the conference finals that year before dropping a 4-2 series to the eventual champions, the Hershey Bears.
The Monarchs now head south for an eight-game road trip, just in time to escape the snow. They play two at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, SC on the tonight & Friday nights. After that, Adirondack, Reading, and Worcester. A not-unimpressive lineup, barring Jacksonville, which was a classic trap game, and Worcester, who have begun to flail a bit and are falling out of contention in the North.