There’s just under a month left in the regular season, and it looks like playoff hockey is returning to Manchester….for now.
It’s March 7, 2019, here’s what’s been going on lately in Monarchs Country.
Wednesday, Feb. 27 – Worcester 4, Manchester 3 (Home – OT)
Friday, March 1 – Manchester 6, Adirondack 3 (Home)
Saturday, March 2 – Adirondack 8, Manchester 1
As of today, the Monarchs still hold the fourth and final playoff berth in the ECHL’s North Division thanks to a tiebreaker over the Brampton Beast. They now find themselves two points behind Maine, who jumped back into the top four by taking two out of three games in their recent trip to Utah.
That switch is nothing new, as Newfoundland and Adirondack continue to hold a chokehold on the division’s top two spots, with Maine, Manchester, Brampton, Worcester and Reading playing musical chairs for the other two playoff berths.
After Friday, it seemed like Manchester might escape that cycle of musical chairs, evening up their season series with Adirondack and pulling within three points of the Thunder’s second-place perch. Those hopes faded quickly on Saturday though in what was another tough night for Manchester goaltender Cole Kehler.
Although the Monarchs’ reserve goaltender had been seeing sparks of renewal after a winless January, he would be pulled in the second period of Saturday’s blowout, with continued struggles from Charles Williams only further decreasing the dream of narrowing the gap behind Adirondack down to one point.
The other major takeaway from the week came from Sam Kurker, who stepped up to replace the departing offense of team points leader Spencer Watson.
With Watson dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks organization prior to Wednesday’s contest, Kurker eclipsed his 2017-’18 Monarchs’ goal tally, thanks to five goals over the weekend, adding two assists for good measure.
Kurker couldn’t get on the board on Saturday against Adirondack, but he’ll get another chance on Friday with a rematch this Saturday in Glens Falls at 7 p.m. The Monarchs will then return to SNHU Arena for a 3 p.m. matchup against the Norfolk Admirals, their final non-divisional game of the regular season.
The Monarchs will be joined by Pierre Luc-Mercier as well as the return of defenseman Stepan Falkovsky.
Mercier, 26, arrives from Rapid City in exchange for Dexter Dancs and future considerations. He comes after playing in 56 games for Rapid City this season, where he posted 11 goals and 26 assists for 37 points. In two seasons in the ECHL between the Rush and Adirondack Thunder, Mercier has racked up 124 games, while scoring 28 goals and 51 assists for 79 points.
Falkovsky, a 6-foot-7 native of Minsk, Belarus, played 14 games for the Monarchs this season and returns on a loan from the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, who assigned him to their AHL affiliate in Iowa as well as the ECHL’s Allen Americans.
Top Star: Sam Kurker – 5 goals, 2 assists, Even plus/minus, 16 shots on goal
Second Star: Nic Pierog – 2 goals, 0 assists, -3, 18 shots on goal
Third Star: Tony Cameranesi – 0 goals, 3 assists, -2, 15 shots on goal