EXETER, N.H. – It’s too soon to tell if Friday night held the last home game in Manchester Monarchs history, but if it was, it will be a game fondly remembered by those who witnessed it.
Manchester needed overtime to take down the Newfoundland Growlers, winning 2-1 in the Rinks at Exeter.
As SNHU Arena was unavailable due to a monster truck rally this weekend, the Monarchs’ backup home was pressed into service for Game 5.
With an attendance of just 897, it was the smallest crowd by far this season for the Monarchs. However, the energy of the team’s core supporters combined with the more limited confines built a unique and special atmosphere connecting the players with the fans on a night where the Monarchs needed everything they could get.
After a deadlocked first period, Manchester finally broke through on a power play 11:30 into the second period, with David Kolomatis sending a slapshot from near the boards past Newfoundland goaltender Michael Garteig.
Manchester’s lead did not last long, with Newfoundland neutralizing the opponent’s momentum once again as they had multiple times this series and throughout the regular season as well.
That neutralization came courtesy of Zach O’Brien’s unassisted streak down the ice, slipping the puck through just over three minutes after Kolomatis’ shot to even things up.
Newfoundland outshot Manchester 16-6 in the final frame of regulation, but Williams kept the Monarchs alive with a chance in overtime. Pierre-Luc Mercier quickly made the most of that chance, finding a perfect pass out front and taking a sudden game-winner 2:16 into the sudden-death period.
Mercier credited the score to the help of a strong forecheck from teammates Kevin Dufour and Daniil Miromanov, who both assisted on the goal.
“I think overall it was a really good play. I think the mindset in overtime is you have to make the best of your time,” said Mercier. “We knew we had to play the puck deep.”
Even though the ice was the same size as in Manchester, Kolomatis joked before the initial puck drop that it kind of felt like a high school varsity hockey game coming into things. Howerver, Exeter did help reveal that an energy that once filled the Verizon Center in earlier Monarchs teams he played on during his tenure can still be found.
“It’s nice to have banging on the glass, noise and energy, it was an exciting environment to play in,” he said. “Some of these people, they’re driving 30 or 40 minutes to get here, and they’re not all from Manchester and they’re doing it on a nightly basis. They’re making the trek to support us, travelled a little further for this one and it was nice to see that.”
The Monarchs now head back to St. John’s for Game 6, scheduled for Monday at 7 p.m. local time. If Manchester can win on Monday a winner-take-all Game 7 will take place on Tuesday, also at 7 p.m.