MANCHESTER, NH – The Manchester Monarchs began the ECHL North Division Semifinals with a 3-2 double overtime win on Friday night against the Reading Royals, a game certainly worthy of the postseason regardless of how it ended.
Neither team could find traction in the first period, but it was still a good 20 minutes for the Monarchs despite the lack of scoring, outshooting Reading 17-10 and outpacing the visitors on both ends of the ice.
David Kolomatis’ blue line shot just seconds before the end of the first looked like it would be the first goal of the match. However, a high sticking call negated that score, leaving Reading to make the game’s first goal. That came from with Chris McCarthy, finishing a zig-zagging stream of Royal passes with tap just within the left post 8:47 into the second period.
Shane Wilkins grabbed the game’s second goal six minutes later, once again placing it past the left post.
Wilkins’ goal came from a quick reaction by McCarthy, who stole the puck just a few feet to the stick side of Manchester netminder Charles Williams seconds earlier, leaving Wilkins with a clear look at the net.
“Honestly I think we were shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Monarchs head coach Rich Seeley of the second period. “We weren’t managing pucks, we were making life difficult, we weren’t playing north very quickly and trying to play through guys all the time. We had honestly, some average efforts, and it cost us.”
Matt Marcinew brought it back within one with a slapshot between the faceoff circles 6:25 into the third period.
Marcinew’s goal revitalized what had been a lethargic Monarchs attack and Manchester would equalize 9:58 into the third as Alexx Privatera’s pass diagonally across the front of Reading’s goal crease found a streaking Matt Leitner coming up on the stick side of Reading goaltender John Muse.
A potential game-winning goal for Reading was disallowed in the fourth minute of overtime due to goaltender interference.
Another goal was disallowed at 11:59, for the same reason, but this time on the other side of the ice.
As the overtime period went on, the frenetic pace almost seemed like a continual, alternating power play. Each team linking shot after shot, hoping to start an attack of their own but settling for anything that would stop the opposing offensive onslaught.
However, neither team could break through during the first overtime, with Manchester failing to capitalize on the only actual power play of the period, occurring over the last few seconds before the fourth intermission.
“It seemed back and forth, and there was a period in the first overtime where we were really buzzing,” said Leitner. “But it’s the playoffs and you can’t panic. There’s going to be some times when down and some times when you’re up and you really gotta be mentally tough and that showed tonight.”
Reading would kill the power play and the Monarchs would kill two more before the game was finally decided on its 101st shot.
That came from Sam Kurker, a fast break toward the right post with 2:22 left in the second overtime period that finally put things to rest.
“It was a surprise way to open the series, it was close all the way through,” said Seeley. “I liked our perseverance. Both teams had great chances, but it’s nice to come out with the win.”
After playing nearly two games in a day, there is no word yet over who will start in goal for Manchester for Game 2 in SNHU Arena on Saturday.
The puck drops at 6 p.m., with Game 3 scheduled for Monday in Reading.