Sam Kurker (photo credit – Rich Tilton)
The Manchester Monarchs began their season last weekend north of the border, returning with results and concerns.
Manchester took three out of four possible points from the Brampton Beast, the ECHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. However, that figure easily could have been four or zero depending on a few key moments.
In Saturday’s season opener, the Monarchs squandered a three-goal lead, allowing Brampton to tie up the game with just under two minutes left in regulation.
After a fruitless overtime period, the Monarchs ultimately fell 6-5 in a shootout, with their only shootout goal coming from Rob Hamilton.
The tables turned on Sunday when it came to late heroics, even though the Monarchs would once again lose an early three-goal lead.
With just 57 seconds left in the contest, Nick Moutrey provided the game winner, receiving the puck from a falling David Kolomatis and quickly slotting it home to give Manchester a 4-3 win.
Monarchs head coach Doug Christiansen was pleased with his squad’s overall effort, but saw need for improvement in their defense, stemming in part to a bit of rust still left over from the offseason.
“I thought we had great starts in both games and I think the players were energetic and eager to get going,” said Christiansen. “I think as the game wore on both nights, the fact that they played three more preseason games showed up a little bit.”
If a few things changed one way or another, the Monarchs could have left Canada with all four points or no points at all, so one could ascribe a bit of luck to the final outcomes. Luck may not be enough this weekend however, as the Reading Royals and Newfoundland Growlers come to SNHU Arena on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Christensen believes that Newfoundland in particular poses a serious challenge for Manchester.
“Newfoundland has been supplied very well by Toronto, they’ve got a lot of skill. They’re a younger team, but they have a lot of players that are on AHL or NHL contracts,” said Christiansen. “They’re a team that can be dangerous, they’ve got great pace.”
Newfoundland makes its franchise debut after splitting a pair of games against Kelly Cup finalist Florida and another split against eternal Monarch rival Adirondack.
Reading also split a pair at home, falling in overtime on opening night to the Worcester Railers before winning 6-4 on Sunday. They’ll play Maine on Friday before their Saturday contest against Manchester.
Top Star – Sam Kurker: Kurker is a grinder and his work ethic paid off with a combined two goals and three assists over the weekend. Now in his second full year as a professional, Kurker is likely going to see some time in the AHL to build on his 31 games there last year.
Second Star – Tony Cameranesi: Like Kurker, Cameranesi also had multi-point games on both Brampton contests, already almost eclipsing his four goal ECHL tally last year.
Third Star – Nick Moutrey: Along with the game winner on Sunday, Moutrey had 11 shots on goal overall on the weekend plus two assists on Saturday.