A positive Sunday, with Newfoundland on the horizon

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Nine games remain in the Manchester Monarchs’ regular season and their playoff fate remains unsettled.

It’s March 18, 2019 and here’s what’s been going on lately in Monarchs Country.

Friday, March 15 – Worcester 5, Manchester 2 (home)

Sunday, March 17 – Manchester 7, Worcester 4 (away)

The Monarchs retain a tenuous grip on the final ECHL North Division playoff berth following a split home-and-home weekend series against the Worcester Railers.

Manchester grabbed an early goal on Friday night, a good omen for most hockey teams but significantly so for the Monarchs, who’ve gotten around two-thirds of their wins during games where they score first.

Unfortunately, Friday night did not fit that script as the Railers’ four unanswered goals put the contest out of reach.

The Monarchs bounced back at the DCU Center on Sunday, enough of a bounce back to make the weekend a positive one for Manchester Monarchs Head Coach Doug Christiansen.

“I think the players were motivated (on Sunday), there’s no question about it” said Christiansen. “Losing on Friday night, especially with some of the goals that we gave up. I think the video session on Saturday was a moment where we needed to correct some of our mistakes. We weren’t perfect on Sunday, but we came out hungry. We came out and gave ourselves a really good lead.”

Sunday’s victory was powered in large part by four goals from Nic Pierog. That tally puts him at 31 goals for the season, just three behind the league lead currently held by Allen’s Zach Pochiro.

“Nick Pierog is an absolute heart and soul player; he’s one of, if not the hardest-working player in the league,” said Christiansen. “He genuinely cares about getting better every day, his teammates respect him and he’s a big part of our offense.”

Christiansen believes that Pierog’s future at higher levels of professional hockey is a high probability given the aptitude he’s shown this season, but first he and his squad will have to deal with the North Division leading Newfoundland Growlers.

The Monarchs obtained just one point against the Growlers in four early season games, but much has changed since then according to Christiansen.

“We’re a totally different team than we were in November, we’ve changed a bunch of times since we’ve seen them last,” he said. “For us, we need to skate at their level. We’ve got a team now that can skate. They’re coming of what’s been their toughest stretch, so we need to be at our top intensity because any time you face a first-place team in your building, it’s a challenge.”

Heading into Wednesday’s contest the Monarchs stand in fourth place with 70 points, one point ahead of Worcester and one point behind Maine.

After Wednesday’s contest, they’ll face both of those teams on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Saturday’s puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. at SNHU Arena while Sunday’s is set for 3 p.m. in Portland.

Three Stars

Top Star: Nic Pierog (4 goals, 0 assists, +4, 6 shots)

Second Star: Kevin Dufour (3 goals, 1 assist, +4, 8 shots)

Third Star: Daniil Miromanov (0 goals, 2 assists, -1, 6 shots)