MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs picked up their second home win of the season, after achieving a 2-1 victory over the Jacksonville IceMen at the SNHU on Friday night. The win allowed the Monarchs (6-3-1-1) to hang on to their share of the North Division lead going into a long stretch of division games. With the loss, Jacksonville (1-5-1-0) fell even further behind the rest of the league; the newly minted ECHL squad currently sits in last place in the league.
All of the scoring happened in the second period, and got started at 7:17 of the second when the newly-returned David Kolomatis sent a point-to-point pass to Jonathan Racine, who sent a wrister through the zone and past IceMen tender Jamie Phillips to make it 1-0 Monarchs.
Jacksonville would draw even at 14:25 of the period when IceMen scoring leader Alexandre Goulet found another point. Winger Emerson Clark found a rebound in the left circle after a shot by Dylan Blujus was stopped but not held by Monarchs goaltender Evan Cowley. Clark moved the puck across to a ready Goulet, who beat Cowley to make it even at 1-1.
The game-winner came at 17:29 of the middle period after Rob Hamilton picked up his second goal of the season on the power-play. After Jacksonville’s Tyler Coulter was sent to the box on a slashing call, Matt Leitner sent the puck to Hamilton on the point, who fired it home through the legs of Phillips to put the Monarchs ahead 2-1, where they would remain through the largely uneventful third period until the final buzzer.
The Monarchs finished with 40 shots on the night, though most of those unsurprisingly came in the second period, as Jacksonville held them to single-digits (nine and eight) in the first and third periods. The second period had it all: three goals, a fight, even a penalty shot. The Monarchs allowed a relatively light five power-plays for Jacksonville, who failed to capitalize and dropped their conversion rate to 2.9%. The Monarchs went 1-for-4 with the man advantage, putting them above 15% for the first time this season. Joel Lowry was credited with the secondary assist on both of Manchester’s goals, continuing to produce in what is looking to be a breakout year for the winger. Cowley stopped 33 of 34 on the night, including the aforementioned penalty shot, which was awarded to Elgin Pearce. While not a dominant performance, it was a solid tune-up game going into upcoming contests with Worcester, Reading, and Adirondack.
Captain Kolomatis returned for his first game since leaving with an upper body injury after the October 20th contest against the Adirondack Thunder. With his assist, he picked up his 200th point as a professional hockey player. 166 of those have been with the Monarchs, putting him in a tie with Justin Azevedo.
Give some props to Jacksonville’s Goulet. He’s currently sitting on 11 points in only seven games, and has picked up at least one in every game thus far. Pretty impressive for only being 21 years old. Keep an eye on this guy.
After a whopping seven slashing calls against Norfolk on November 4th, there was only one against Jacksonville. The new slashing rules have had an impact across the league, but this was a rare light game for the slash. It did, however, lead to the Monarchs’ game-winning goal.
Tony Turgeon and Francois Beauchemin have been called up to Springfield this week, so they’ll be looking to rely on depth to take their place.
The Monarchs now face a home-and-home against the Worcester Railers starting Saturday at the DCU Center. The Railers currently lead the season series 2-0 after spoiling both the season opener in Worcester and the home opener at the SNHU. The Railers have outscored the Monarchs 6-3 across the two games. The two teams will play four more times over the next nine days, two apiece in Worcester and Manchester. The Worcester offensive assault has been led by former Monarch Ashton Rome, who has two goals in the two games, Wade Murphy and Patrick McNally each have one goal and one assist apiece. McNally is currently the Railers’ scoring leader with 11 points in nine games, with Murphy in second with six in six.
The Monarchs have faced Railers goaltenders Eamon McAdam and Mitch Gillam once apiece, with Gillam taking home shutout at the SNHU in their last meeting. Gillam currently leads the ECHL with a 2.00 goals-against average, and is in the top ten for save percentage, as well. McAdam sits at a similarly respectable 3.00/.913. The Railers have held the Monarchs’ power-play scoreless in the two games, while going 2-for-8 with the man up. Worcester is currently 5-3-1-0 for 11 points, putting them in a fourth place tie in the North with the Reading Royals. They Railers have just come off a three-game homestand against Reading, winning two.
Obviously, Worcester has been riding high on stellar goaltending, especially by Gillam. Their 2.67 goals-per-game is the lowest in the North, and the dropoff between McNally and Murphy in scoring is significant. The key for the Monarchs will be to keep up the high shot volume to try and crack the Railers’ superb netminding. Worcester’s PK is third in the ECHL, and they are among the least-penalized teams in the league, so the Monarchs’ power-play struggles could be a factor. On the flipside, Worcester’s extra man attack is only converting at a 13.8% rate. So, while discipline should be on the Monarchs’ minds, the Railers haven’t exactly been dangerous themselves. Keeping McNally locked down will be a priority, and keeping an eye on Rome probably wouldn’t hurt.
Puck drop is 7:05 pm tonight at the DCU Center, and 3:00 pm Sunday at the SNHU.
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