MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs bounced back from their 6-2 defeat at the hands of Reading last Sunday, taking out their frustrations on the visiting Wheeling Nailers in a 3-2 victory Friday night.
The Monarchs (23-13-3-1) faced off against the Nailers (21-16-3-0) for only the second time this season, having previously lost to Wheeling in a 7-4 slugfest on January 5th. The win brings the Monarchs to 2-3-2-0 for the month, and helped the struggling Monarchs hang on to their North Division lead.
The scoring started late in the first period, when Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman picked up the goal that put the Monarchs into a 1-0 lead. With Smotherman and Matthew Marcinew making the 2-on-1 breakaway, it was the former who would take the wrist shot that went between the pads of Nailers goaltender Will King and found the back of the net at 18:52.
The lead would double at 8:51 of the middle frame when Monarchs’ goals leader Zac Lynch struck gold on the power-play. Receiving a pass from d-man Justin Agosta, Lynch took a few strides on net before snapping a shot from the hashmarks to beat King over his glove to make it 2-0 Monarchs.
Wheeling would strike back minutes later at 12:14. Center Cam Brown picked up a rebound off a shot by Troy Josephs that Monarchs’ netminder Branden Komm couldn’t handle. Brown put the puck past Komm to bring the Nailers back within one.
Just before the end of the period, at 19:34 of the second, the Nailers made it a whole new hockey game. Wheeling alternate captain Nick Sorkin picked up his own rebound and slid it across to winger Reid Gardiner. Komm couldn’t recover in time to stop Gardiner from finding the back of the cage to pull even at 2-2.
It would be 13:40 of the third before the deciding goal was scored. Agosta picked up his second assist of the night with a pass to Michael Doherty, who made a nifty move around a Wheeling defender, then moved the puck to his backhand and beat King on the gloveside for the game-winner, putting the Monarchs up 3-2.
The Takeaway – With Charles Williams having signed a PTO with the Wilkes-Barrie/Scranton Penguins, things fell to Komm to hold down the fort, and he didn’t disappoint. He stopped 38 of 40 on the night to hold off the Nailers, who are 4th in the league in scoring. Considering the Penguins also returned 14-goal scorer Cody Wydo to the Nailers Friday morning, it was no small feat. The Monarchs scorers came out to play as well, aiding Komm in his effort. Lynch and Smotherman now sit at 1-2 in scoring for the Monarchs in the absence of Joel Lowry, who has been out of the lineup since returning to the Monarchs from the Utica Comets on December 22nd. With Monarchs offensive threats being called up the the AHL left and right (the latest departure: Matt Buckles, who returned to the Springfield Thunderbirds after averaging a point-per-game in Manchester,) it’s good for Manchester to have the pair to do the heavy lifting on offense. It’s been a tough road in January for the Monarchs, and with the roster constantly depleted by injuries and callups, it’s only going to get harder.
Notes – Another consistent presence for the Monarchs has been defensive leader Colton Saucerman, who picked up a pair of secondary assists to bring his season total so far to 27. The Beard has been an unselfish contributor to the high-powered Monarchs offense, and sits tied for 7th in the ECHL in total Assists.
With Williams taking his leave of Manchester Friday morning, EBUG Joe Spagnoli was called back into action for the Monarchs. The Cranston, RI native is a private goalie instructor, and serves as the Goalie Coach for the Providence College womens’ hockey team. Spagnoli has also served in an emergency capacity for the Worcester Railers this season.
The Adirondack Thunder dropped their game against the struggling Brampton Beast Friday night, helping to increase the Monarchs’ division lead to 3 points.
The Monarchs play host to the Jacksonville IceMen Saturday and Sunday at the SNHU. Puck drop is at 6 pm EST.