MANCHESTER, NH – After dropping two games to division rivals last weekend, including the home opener against the Worcester Railers, the Monarchs look to pick up their first home win of the season tonight against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
Greenville heads to New Hampshire after a Tuesday night victory over the Adirondack Thunder. The Swamp Rabbits are off to a 1-2-1 start, despite having scored 19 goals in those four games. That offensive production has been undermined by issues in net, where goaltenders Brandon Halverson and Ty Rimmer have GAAs of 4.59 and 6.10, respectively. The Monarchs, who have scored 17 goals over five games, will look to exploit this weakness.
Greenville’s scoring has been led by right winger Adam Chapie, who currently stands with three goals and five assists. Center Allan McPherson (2 G, 5 A) and forward Caleb Herbert (1 G, 5 A) round out the top three, and keeping the puck off of their sticks will be a key for Manchester’s defensive corps.
The Monarchs, for their part, are coming off of a two-game losing streak, having surrendered to the Adirondack Thunder on the 20th, followed by Worcester on the 21st. The Monarchs’ goaltending woes were never more apparent than they were against the Thunder when they fumbled away a three-goal lead on the way to a shootout loss at the Cool Insuring Arena. Then, after the pomp and circumstance of the opening ceremonies at home, it was the offense that couldn’t find a hold, as the Monarchs lost a close battle 2-0. Worcester’s Mitch Gillam turned away 28 shots in the victory, while Monarchs tender Charles Williams seemed to find his footing, giving up only one goal on 20 shots.
Greenville and Manchester have a strange history across the Monarchs’ two ECHL seasons. In 2015-16, the teams played three games, all in the then-Verizon Wireless Arena. The Swamp Rabbits took the series 2-1, with all three games going into overtime, the second and third moving on to shootouts. In 2016-17, the teams faced off only once, a 4-3 victory for the Rabbits in Greenville’s Bon Secours Wellness Arena which, oddly enough, also resulted in overtime. Despite their admittedly limited experience with each other, it is fair to say that these two teams have had a tight, exciting rivalry. That rivalry will continue this season over the course of five games, two of which happen this weekend at the SNHU Arena.
Rookie goaltender Charles Williams seems like he will be the starter for the time being, and perhaps he is beginning to come into his stride after a close loss to the Railers last Saturday. He will be facing a real test against the high-powered Greenville offense, which will help the team to assess his viability as a starter moving forward. It’s worth noting that the losses (barring the empty-net dagger by Worcester last weekend) have all been close contests. Unfortunately, winning or losing close games is usually an indicator of long-term success. A pair of wins against the Swamp Rabbits would go a long way toward righting the ship going into a three-game road stand against middling Norfolk at the Norfolk Scope to begin the month of November. The scoring has been there (mostly), but the defense will have to hold the line to make it happen.
Manchester’s power play woes continued against Adirondack and Worcester, resulting in only one goal in eight opportunities. This needs to change. While the offense has been solid, a few extra power play goals would turn one-goal losses into one-goal wins. A toothless attack during a 5-on-3 opportunity against the Railers looked like the nail in the coffin for the silver and black.
David Kolomatis has now officially tied for the all-time assist lead. Look for him to take the number one spot sometime this weekend.
Former Monarch Ashton Rome flipped an impressive empty-net goal from the Railers’ defensive end to seal the victory for his new team.
Another former Monarch, defenseman Joe Houk, will likely start both games for Greenville. Houk played nine games for Manchester in 2015-16, with no points. In 99 games with the Swamp Rabbits, he has 60 points (20 G, 40 A.)