MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs returned to the win column Saturday night, taking a victory from the Worcester Railers at the SNHU Arena.
The Monarchs (22-12-3-1) had yet to win a game in 2018, including an overtime loss to the Railers (14-17-1-2) back on Friday night. Manchester had held an eight-point division lead at the close of the 2017, which has now evaporated to a one-point lead over the surging Adirondack Thunder.
The Monarchs’ scoring started at 15:14 of the first period. With Martin Nemcik in the box on a slashing call, the Railers were playing aggressively on the power play when Michael Doherty sprung the puck loose to Zac Lynch. Lynch broke free of the Worcester defense, and juked a charging Mitch Gillam, putting the puck into the empty cage to make it 1-0 Manchester.
The Railers would tie things up in the second period at 7:13. With Monarchs’ tender Branden Komm screened by Worcester’s Chris Langkow, it was Kellen Jones who found the back of the net with a shot from above the right circle to tie the game at one apiece.
Manchester would retake the lead at 13:23 of the third period, five seconds into an interference penalty on Langkow. David Kolomatis took a wrister from the blueline, which connected with a waiting Matt Buckles at the top of the crease and beat Gillam to make it a 2-1 game.
The clincher would come at 18:44 of the third. With Gillam pulled to give the Railers the extra man, the pressure was on Komm, and he and the defense held strong. The puck would finally leave the Manchester end with the help of Colton Saucerman, who fed the puck to Lynch. Lynch made it official by potting the empty netter, and 3-1 would be the final score.
The Takeaway – It’s been a rough January for the Monarchs, who are now 1-2-2 to start 2018. Coming off of a very successful December, they could afford the slide, but it’s certainly not something they want to be in the habit of doing. Eight point leads don’t come easily, especially in the North Division. If they want to have any hope of winning the North, four-game losing streaks (with three losses to division rivals) are not the way to go about it. That being said, January has been fairly rocky for the Monarchs, having lost three straight at the start of 2016 (including back-to-back shootout losses to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits) and 2017 1-2-0-1 (playing four games in the Sunshine State in five days). That is to say: this is nothing new. The Monarchs have traditionally struggled at the start of the new year, and they have always recovered. So, while losing streaks are annoying, this isn’t a cause for concern… yet. With Adirondack and Wheeling nipping at their heels, they’ll have to build on the momentum they have going now, or else risk being left behind.
Notes – As with previous departures, the hole left by Joel Lowry has been filled by increased production of both Lynch and Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman. Speaking of Smotherman, the guy’s a real gent: after knocking off the helmet of Worcester’s Ben Masella in a third-period scrap, he put his hand behind Masella’s head to keep it from hitting the ice when he took him down. What a guy.
Kolomatis has officially pulled within one point of second all-time in scoring with his assist on Buckles’s goal. Also worth noting: he’s only seven games from tying for second in all-time regular season games played with the Monarchs, a spot currently held by David Meckler with 381. And in first? Former Monarchs captain (and current Tucson Roadrunners captain) Andrew “Soup” Campbell with a whopping 414 sorties with Manchester. With 34 games left in the season, Kolo would need to come back for at least six next season to tie with his former teammate. Either way, he’s definitely earned his place in Monarchs’ history.
The Monarchs face off against the Reading Royals on Sunday to complete the three-game weekend. Puck drops at the SNHU Arena at 3pm EST.