February is here, and the Manchester Monarchs look to continue their push for the playoffs.
Here’s what’s been going on recently in Monarchs Country.
Wednesday, Jan. 30 – Adirondack 6, Manchester 0 (home)
Friday, Feb. 1 – Manchester 3, Maine 2 (home)
Saturday, Feb. 2 – Manchester 3, Reading 0 (road)
Sunday, Feb. 3 – Reading 6, Manchester 1 (road)
In recent years, 80 points is generally the cut-off point in the ECHL between the playoffs and an early summer. After Sunday’s blowout in Reading, the Monarchs are on a pace for 78.2 points, which might just be enough in this year’s crowded North Division race.
Newfoundland (60) and Adirondack (55) still remain head and shoulders above the rest of the division while Manchester (50) currently holds one of the remaining two spots with the other four teams in the division within five points of Manchester’s current mark.
Certainly, allowing six goals in any contest is cause for concern, let alone doing it twice in a week. However, Manchester Monarchs Head Coach Doug Christiansen prefers to look at the larger picture, instead recognizing the fact that Manchester is 5-2 since the All-Star break.
“Obviously the two losses we had were lopsided, particularly in the Wednesday game we didn’t play as well as we have been, but those things happen,” he said. “As a whole, if you told me that we’d come out of the All-Star break 5-2 with two bad losses, I would have taken it. We’ve moved up in the standings and also found ways to win. For us, that’s an important piece right now: getting points and moving forward.”
Indeed, the Monarchs aren’t doing too badly when it comes to their overall defense, excluding those occasional blowouts.
Currently, the Monarchs sit 10th out of 27 teams in the league, allowing an average of exactly three goals per game up to this point. Monarchs goaltender Charles Williams is doing even better than that, with a 2.29 GAA right now, seventh in the league among qualified goaltenders.
“Charles has been absolutely fantastic. “He’s making all (the saves) he’s supposed to and he’s adding a few a game he shouldn’t be, and that’s the difference for us.”
Christiansen also has confidence in backup Cole Kehler, despite his poor performance on Sunday and the four goals he gave up on Wednesday before leaving in exchange for Williams.
“Cole’s obviously a player who’s young and improving. He had a four-game win streak leading into Wednesday, which wasn’t his best,” said Christiansen. “We also need to do a better job in front of him so we can get back to where we were with him in mid-January.”
The Monarchs now begin a six-game stretch against non-divisional foes, with only one more non-divisional game between the end of that stretch and the end of the regular season.
“I think it’s nice for us to have some teams we haven’t seen. It gives us a chance have something other than the standard pre-scout meeting against a team we’ve already seen five times,” said Christiansen. “That allows us to have some nuance and lets us explore some new things that we can use against teams in our division.”
Manchester’s non-divisional stretch begins on Friday, Feb. 8 (7 p.m.) with a contest at home against Wheeling.