MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs now have a two-game lead in their ECHL North Division Semifinal series matchup against the Reading Royals, winning their second double overtime game in as many days by a score of 3-2.
The first goal began with a sloppy Monarchs pass that found its way to Reading’s Adam Schmidt during Manchester’s first power play of the evening. After taking the puck just past the Monarchs blue line, he calmly slotted it into the upper right corner to give the Royals an early lead.
Manchester equalized 11:13 into the second thanks to Michael Doherty and Sam Kurker. Kurker wristed a shot toward the left pad of Reading goaltender John Muse, ricocheting directly toward the stick of Doherty, who easily slipped it behind the right side of Muse.
Monarchs captain David Kolomatis provided Manchester their second goal a few minutes later, just a seconds after the second penalty of the night for Reading’s Johnny Golightly.
Kolomatis’ shot appeared to be intended as a pass to Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman, who was camped out along the right post, but instead the puck would curve just inside the right post, marking his third playoff goal in 21 playoff appearances for Manchester.
Reading’s Matt Willows tied up the contest with 2:22 left in the period after some controversy. The Royals had begun a power play of their own and Willows tapped the puck toward the goal line and it appeared that Manchester goaltender Charles Williams had barely prevented the goal, with officials overturning the goal judge’s initial indication of the goal.
Williams quickly trapped the puck, but after some consultation at mid ice, referee Andrea Barone awarded the goal to Reading.
The Monarchs finished the game’s first 60 minutes with a 39-21 shot on goal advantage, but the third period proved inconclusive, setting up a second straight day of overtime between these two teams.
Before long it was clear, skill alone would likely to decide this contest. It would come down to whoever made the next key mistake.
It appeared that mistake might be a penalty shot given to Willows 15:41 into the overtime period, but his wrister deflected harmlessly off the right pad of Williams.
Instead, the game-winning goal would have to wait for the second overtime as Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman found the winner at 14:08 into the second overtime period on another controversial call.
LaVallee-Smotherman fell while coming across the goal crease, with his skate impacting Muse’s right leg.
Zac Lynch stood just beyond the post, recapturing the puck just inches from Muse and LaVallee-Smotherman, getting off a shot that ultimately caromed off LaVallee-Smotherman’s shin.
Although the Royals protested, claiming LaVallee-Smotherman interfered with Muse, for the second night in a row Reading found itself on the wrong end of a goaltender inference call.
Throughout the year, Manchester has shown the prerequisite talent needed to take home the Kelly Cup, but lacked the focus to rebound from difficult moments. For Monarchs head coach Rich Seeley, tonight’s victory came down to overcoming that weakness.
“It was just imposing our will to win, having some mental fortitude, executing on things,” he said. “I think we did better tonight than last night, I thought we did some good things that were part of our game plan and everyone contributed.”
While the Monarchs have now played nearly three games of hockey in two days, they will have a day off before returning to the ice in Reading on Monday.
But despite the sheer amount of hockey they’ve faced so far in this series, the squad believes that fatigue will not be a factor moving forward.
“This is the longest stretch of hockey I’ve ever had in two days, for sure,” said Williams. “But it feels good. I trained for it and with a team like this, it makes a lot easier to see pucks, track pucks, and it makes my job a lot easier coming out against a good side.”