READING, PA – The Manchester Monarchs advanced to the ECHL North Division Finals on Wednesday night, completing their North Division Semifinal sweep of the Reading Royals with a 2-0 victory.
Manchester has struggled during the first period over the past several months, and they conceded during the first goal during each of this series’ games against Reading. That was not the case on Wednesday, with the Monarchs outshooting Reading, 13-8.
Neither team could find their way onto the scoreboard until 7:50 in the second period where Manchester’s Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman.
LaVallee-Smotherman put Manchester on the board first thanks to his positioning, finding the puck near the left post and calmly putting it away for his 11th goal of the year against Reading.
Whether it came from a general sense of fatigue or deflation from losing three straight overtime games, the contest could not muster the energy evident earlier in the series.
Reading squandered seven power play opportunities, leaving them with a final power play conversion rate of just 12 percent during their four playoff games against the Monarchs.
The Royals’ final power play late in the third period gave them their best opportunity, taking out goaltender John Muse with just under two minutes left, but could not capitalize despite with a 6-on-3 skater edge.
Zac Lynch added an empty net goal shortly after the end of that final power play to seal the victory.
One could say that came from a deficient performance by the Royals, but credit has to be given to Manchester’s defensive effort.
That effort was spearheaded by Charles Williams, who kept Reading scoreless for the final 91:58 of the series. He would end the series with 156 saves, second only to Muse so far during the ECHL playoffs.
Monarchs head coach Rich Seeley praised Williams’ performance, particular in reference to penalty killing situations.
Due to the sheer volume of penalties, Manchester’s special teams were crucial over the series, but it’s unclear if that level of penalty killing can be sustained moving forward.
“You never want to be in that position, but our penalty kill stepped up for us, it had all series,” he said. “They had way too many opportunities, it’s not a recipe for long term success. We’ll have to button that up moving forward, but it’s nice to know that when the chips are down, the guys are willing to sacrifice to get the job done.”
Manchester will now play either the Adirondack Thunder or the Worcester Railers, with Adirondack taking a 3-1 series lead after a 2-1 victory over the Railers in Glens Falls on Wednesday night.
Those teams play again in Glens Falls on Saturday at 7 p.m., with games on Monday and Wednesday if necessary.