The Monarchs have four of the 16 wins they’ll need to win this year’s Kelly Cup.
It’s April 21, here’s your Manchester Monarchs Week in Review.
The Monarchs completed a four-game sweep of the Reading Royals on Wednesday, even though they technically played the equivalent of 5.49 games.
Reading last won an overtime playoff game in 2013, and the Monarchs were more than happy to extend that streak with three straight overtime games to begin the series, with the first two going into double overtime.
There wasn’t much to divide these two teams, but just as the Monarchs have done throughout most of the regular season, the combination of good goaltending and scoring at key moments.
Manchester also got a little luck when it came to calls, particularly the game-winning goal in Game 2, which saw Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman trip over Reading goaltender John Muse, only to get back up in time for teammate Zac Lynch to ricochet the puck off Smotherman’s shin and into the net.
Even if those moments had gone Reading’s way, it wouldn’t have assured victory, but the tone of Game 4 may have been a little different. Both teams seemed tired and Reading seemed demoralized, resigned to fate’s favor toward the boys in black and white.
The first three games were decided by one goal, with the Monarchs getting two empty net goals in garbage time of the series clincher to break that trend.
Top Star: Charles Williams – It’s an old hockey cliché, but Manchester’s postseason fate may decide on whether their goaltender can continue his hot streak.
The rookie shut out the Royals in the series finale, not allowing any third period or overtime goals during the series’ four games. Williams stopped 95.5 percent of the shots he faced during the series, including an overtime penalty shot against All-ECHL forward Matt Willows in Game 2.
Second Star: Sam Kurker – The Northeastern graduate had 29 points for Manchester during his first full professional season and he continued his quality year, adding three points and an assist during the Reading series.
Third Star: Zac Lynch – Kurker led the team in goals over the series, but Lynch led the way in points and shots on goal.
Beyond the Blue Lines
The backline was fairly stable throughout the series, with a few adjustments up front. After game one, Manchester head coach Rich Seeley switched out Kevin Morris for Keegan Iverson, with Iverson leaving the lineup again in Game 4.
Fourth line center Ashton Rome made way for the return of Joel Lowry in Game 4 and Tony Turgeon returned for the two games in Reading.
Spencer Watson got the night off in Game 3 due to the return of Turgeon, with defenceman Alexx Privitera not appearing during the games in Reading.
At the time of this column, the Adirondack Thunder hold a 3-1 lead over the Worcester Railers in the other North Division Semifinal. The Monarchs had a mixture of success and failure against both divisional foes over the regular season. However, it’s hard to dispute that Worcester would likely be an easier foe, given the fact that they had the league’s worst offense during the regular season and the trouble Adirondack’s forecheck has given the Monarchs during their contests.
Don’t tell that to Seeley, though. He knows either team will be a challenge for Manchester.
“Our whole division has been tight all year, it doesn’t matter who we play. All the games have been close all year, so I expect the next series to be similar to the one we just had.”
No date has been announced yet for the first game of the ECHL North Division Finals, but with the likely date to occur over the weekend of April 28-29, the Monarchs will likely begin the series on the road, as SNHU Arena will be holding a monster truck rally over that weekend.