MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs mounted an improbable comeback Friday night at the SNHU to overcome a Brampton Beast squad that seemed to have all the answers for most of the game.
The Monarchs (27-15-3-1) scored three goals in ten minutes and 28 seconds to complete the comeback against the Beast (17-19-5-3), who held the Monarchs to under ten shots until well into the second period. Brampton looked sure to win the game against a Manchester team that looked to have little energy and even less heart until something flipped a switch and things turned completely upside-down for a Brampton squad that have caught few breaks this season.
Things started positively for the Monarchs when Spencer Watson scored the first of what would be three goals on the night at just 25 seconds of the first period. Charging out of the gate with gusto, Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman fired a shot on Beast goaltender Carmine Guerriero, who stopped the puck but didn’t hold it. Watson found the rebound in close and lifted it over Guerriero’s stick. The net came off of the moorings (for the first of three times on the night for Guerriero, who couldn’t seem to keep himself from bumping into the thing,) but it was ruled good after the review to make it 1-0 Monarchs.
But it wouldn’t be long before the Beast started to take the air out of the building. After taking a shot which was stifled by Monarchs netminder Matt O’Connor, former Monarch Daniel Ciampini found his own rebound and slid a pass back to a waiting Jamie Doornbosh in the right circle. Doornbosch wristed the puck that beat O’Connor on the glove side to make it a 1-1 game at 2:34 of the first.
Thirty seconds later, it would be Beast captain Brandon Marino giving the Beast the lead. Marino found himself wide open at the top of the crease, receiving a pass from David Ling and beating O’Connor to make it a 2-1 game at 3:04 of the first period. At this point, the teams had recorded three shots, all of them goals.
Ciampini would find a goal of his own to double the Brampton lead at 13:38 of the first. Doornbosch fired a shot on goal which O’Connor deflected away, but it found the Beast winger in the right circle, and Ciampini fired it home to make it 3-1 in favor of the visitors.
The Monarchs would find one more goal before the end of the period to make it 3-2, on just their fifth shot of the night, at 19:46 of the first. Francois Beauchemin received the drop pass from Matt Schmalz while making a move toward the net from the left, putting the puck between the pads of Guerriero to close the Monarchs back within one. The first period ended with the Beast holding a 20-5 advantage on the shot board.
Things would not improve for the Monarchs in the second, as they looked completely outpaced from the get-go in the middle frame. Marino would pick up his second goal of the night at 3:01 of the second when O’Connor gave up another rebound on a shot by Reggie Traccito, which the Brampton captain gobbled up eagerly and returned to the net to beat the tender on the stick side to make it 4-2.
Traccito would pick up a goal to go with his assist at 11:01 of the second. Ciampini had the puck at the blueline and fired a shot through traffic, which Traccito redirected past O’Connor and in to make it 5-2 Brampton. Things looked bleak for Manchester, who would not register their tenth shot until 18:50 of the second period.
But then, oh then… the comeback began. After toiling for nearly half of the third period, looking for a chance, the Monarchs struck gold at 8:59. It was Beauchemin again, after a left-circle wrister by defenseman Eric Schurhamer, who tipped the puck in past Guerriero to make it 5-3 Brampton.
Watson would find his second at 12:14 of the third with a little help from LaVallee-Smotherman once again. With the puck at the right point, Smo slid the pass forward to Watson in the circle, who one-timed it past a reaching Guerriero to pull the Monarchs back within one at 5-4.
Things looked bleak, however, when Schmalz got yanked for closing his hand on the puck at 18:05. Down a man for the final 1:55, the comeback looked all but dead for the Monarchs. But Colton Saucerman would send the puck down ice to connect with Smotherman, who streaked into the Brampton zone with a defender on his back and wristed it to Guerriero’s right side to tie the game at five-a-side with just 33 seconds left in regulation.
The wild game would end in a properly weird fashion 2:49 into the overtime period. Watson would complete the hat-trick and pick up the game-winner when he took a shot from the right of Guerriero, where it crossed through the crease and deflected into the net off of Doornbosch to ice the 6-5 victory for Manchester, a result which no one could have predicted going into the third period.
The Takeaway – While the comeback was impressive, this was a bad game for Manchester for 5/6 of the night. They were completely outplayed and outhustled by Brampton, who were clearly hungry for a win after having lost five straight. After the disastrous first period, Coach Seeley did not mince words. “The first twenty minutes were a joke,” he said during the first intermission interview, adding that what the Monarchs needed to come back was “a heartbeat.” He is nothing, if not passionate. Things didn’t seem to catch during the second period, but whatever happened to spur this wild, crazy, absolutely ga-bonkers third-period comeback, they need some more of it. O’Connor didn’t impress, exactly, but he did stop 35 shots, didn’t give up a power-play goal, and didn’t allow a goal in the third period when the Monarchs were mounting their comeback. He picked up his first win of the season, and he did just enough to help the Monarchs win. Watson did impress, picking up his first hat trick with the Monarchs. He has been a bright spot since arriving from Ontario, with 27 points in 28 games with Manchester. He has been a great help to Smotherman, who has at times seemed like he’s had to throw this team on his back and carry them to victory.
All that being said: they can’t rely on this kind of comeback to happen ever again, really. Yes, they’ve managed to win six out of their last ten after a bad start to January, but there are a few areas of concern with this team right now that might make you wonder if they can maintain this level of success going forward. Threat Level: Cautiously Optimistic, for now.
Notes – Saucerman’s assist on the game-tying goal put him at 30 for the year. That’s good enough for ninth in the ECHL right now, though Casey Pierro-Zabotel of the Allen Americans sits comfortably in first with 37, four helpers ahead of second place. Last season, between the AHL and ECHL, he finished with 27 total. This has been a breakout year for the man with the beard, and he’s been a steady force driving the Monarchs’ offense.
Hayden Hodgson made his debut with the Monarchs against Brampton Friday. The 21-year-old winger is under contract with the Cleveland Monsters and is on his second stint in the ECHL this season after spending a part of January in Florida with the Everblades. Quite the change of scenery. He spent last season in Juniors with the Saginaw Spirit (erstwhile home of Steagle Cobeagle the Eagle) where he racked up 38 goals and 28 assists in 67 games. With Cleveland, he’s had 2 & 3 in 24 games, but he picked up an assist on Beauchemin’s second tally, so attaboy.