Can the Monarchs now eliminate Canada?

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The Manchester Monarchs have now faced the Adirondack Thunder in each season during their ECHL tenure and it’s safe to say that this season’s results are much better than last season’s.

It’s April 21, 2019, here’s a recap of the ECHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals from Monarchs Country.

Game 1 – Friday, April 12: Manchester 4, Adirondack 2 (Road)

Game 2 – Saturday, April 13: Manchester 6, Adirondack 1 (Road)

Game 3 – Wednesday, April 16: Manchester 3, Adirondack 2 (Home – Overtime)

Game 4 – Friday, April 19: Adirondack 4, Manchester 3 (Home)

Game 5 – Saturday, April 20: Manchester 7, Adirondack 1 (Home)

Like last season, Adirondack held home ice advantage, although granted, it didn’t come due to a scheduling conflict with a monster truck rally at SNHU Arena this time.

With a largely new cast on both sides from the previous four seasons these teams have met in the playoffs, the triple-overtime elimination heartbreaker of 2018 was replaced with a sense of inevitability that was only delayed by the unexpected collapse late in Game 4.

Manchester and Adirondack split their regular season series right down the middle, but Manchester Monarchs Head Coach Doug Christiansen believes the key difference between then was experience with “win or go home” mentality needed in the playoffs.

After struggles for large stretches of the regular season, Manchester needed to tap into that mentality here, which changed the overall dynamic.

“For us, coming into a playoff series, it wasn’t a big change. Getting that win in Game 1 despite being outshot gave us a lot of confidence going into Game 2. We win (in Game 2) and then we’re really feeling good about ourselves.”

The series truly ended after Game 3 with Kevin Dufour’s overtime winner, continuing a trend that gave the Monarchs the second-best overtime and shootout win percentage (.692) in the ECHL, trailing only Maine.

Christiansen did not see a difference between winning in four games or five since the four wins were obtained and the series was won. Still, that one blemish on Friday, a game that seemed like it was on its way to being won until late in the second period, did leave something of a mark.

“I think (Friday) gave us a sour taste in our mouth, I know I came in with a sour taste in my mouth and the guys did too and I think you could see that early (in Game 5),” said Christiansen. “We didn’t want to go back to Adirondack and the guys went out and did the job.”

The Monarchs now have some rest as they await to see if they will face either the Newfoundland Growlers or Brampton Beast in the next round.

Manchester took three of four against Brampton this season, but struggled against the Growlers, going 1-6-1-0 against the expansion team from St. Johns.

There are a few statistics to keep in mind that could give Monarchs fans some hope regardless of their next opponent: they had fewer penalty minutes than any team excluding Reading and they had more shots on goal than any team. But one statistic in particular that is encouraging is the fact that Manchester was in the middle of the pack when it came to power play efficiency given that they could not get a power play goal for several weeks early in the season.

Indeed, Manchester had at least one power play goal in four of their five games against Adirondack, bagging three on Saturday along with a pair of shorthanded goals to boot.

That improvement plays into Manchester’s preference for a free-flowing game, something either Brampton or Newfoundland will certainly look to disrupt.

“Brampton’s forward group is as good as any in the league. One to 10, they can all hurt you. Their goaltending is good and their defenders are really big, but can make plays,” said Christiansen. “And Newfoundland won the division for a reason. They can fly, they are really good on the power play, and (Mile One Centre) is a really tough place to play. Whoever we face, it’s going to get tougher, but that’s how the playoffs are supposed to be.”

Three Stars of the Series

Top Star: Kyle Dufour (5 G, 2 A, +2, 11 SOG)

Second Star: Michael Doherty (4 G, 3 A, +4, 11 SOG)

Third Star: Charles Williams (1.98 GAA, 168 SV, 4-1-0-0)