MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs’ progression to a likely playoff spot continues on, thanks to a back-and-forth 5-4 overtime victory against the Utah Grizzlies Friday night.
Michael Doherty scored the first goal of the night for Manchester 4:26 into the first period. Doherty’s positioning was the key, as the puck ricocheted off the pads of Utah goaltender Joel Rumpel, who had slid to his left to block Eric Schurhamer’s shot. That ricochet slid gently right in front of the crease and Doherty made the most of the opportunity for his 15th goal of the season.
Utah’s Ryan Misiak tied up the contest just over five minutes later with a fast break blast from the left faceoff circle and the Grizzlies took the lead shortly before the first intermission with a quick shot from Mitch Maxwell about ten feet in front of the Monarchs’ net.
Spencer Watson put the contest level again 4:02 into the second period, tapping in a power play equalizer that like Doherty’s early goal was also just in front of the crease.
Utah would take the lead again on another power play, this one halfway through the second period as Brenan Harms deflecting Tyler Richart’s slapshot just past the stick side of Monarchs’ netminder Charles Williams.
The see-saw battle continued with a third power play goal, this one from a blue line slapshot by Manchester’s Eric Shurhamer 16:03 into the second.
Michael Pelch and Jake Marchment provided the contest with yet another Utah lead as Pelch connected with Marchment on a odd-man breakaway six minutes and change into the third period.
But once again, the Monarchs came back, adding their fourth goal of the night on an Ashton Rome deflection that the Utah bench unsuccessfully claimed was a high sticking infraction.
Regulation couldn’t separate the two teams, despite one last Utah power play late in the contest.
Manchester would finally break the deadlock 1:45 into the overtime on Matt Marcinew’s third point of the night.
“(Marcinew) did a lot of things. He plays a lot of minutes for us, he’s great on draws and he probably plays an extra two, three minutes for us a night just because he’s one of our better faceoff guys,” said Monarchs head coach Rich Seeley. “He plays on the power play, the penalty kill and he did some good things down the stretch.”
This season’s seen a mix of exceptional and inadequate performances from the Monarchs and this game held both of them from time to time. In the end though, it was just enough for Manchester to defeat what is one of the ECHL’s hottest teams right now.
“I think a mixed bag is a pretty good way to assess it,” said Seeley. “We were okay. I thought our execution was really average, I don’t think we were on the same page a couple of times on our execution.”
With Worcester’s critical win against Wheeling, Manchester’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot remains at 86 points. The Monarchs win puts them seven points short of that goal and six points ahead of Adirondack atop the North Division standings.
The Monarchs can bring that number down to five points tomorrow with a 6 p.m. rematch at SNHU Arena against Utah and the number can do down to three points if Worcester loses its 7:05 p.m. home contest against Fort Wayne.