The regular season is over, but there’s still hockey to come in the Granite State.
It’s April 7, 2019 and here’s what’s been going on in Monarchs Country.
Wednesday, April 3 – Manchester 4, Worcester 3 (away – overtime)
Friday, April 5 – Manchester 3, Newfoundland 2 (home – shootout)
Saturday, April 6 – Manchester 5, Maine 2 (home)
Sunday is the final day of the regular season for the ECHL as a whole, but Manchester’s regular season concluded by ending the playoff hopes of the Maine Mariners.
Coming into the week, Manchester’s playoff status was also a question mark, but Wednesday’s overtime win against Worcester helped keep the Monarchs in the driver’s seat as they sought to break their seven-game losing streak against the Newfoundland Growlers.
Even though Manchester could not find the game winner in regulation, a third-period goal from defenseman Tim Shoup allowed the Monarchs to try and find that golden goal in overtime.
They ultimately had to wait until Daniil Miromanov’s shootout goal to break the deadlock, the second post-regulation game winner the Russian 21-year-old netted in as many weeks.
That win sealed Manchester’s trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs and it also had much larger meaning in the eyes of Monarchs Head Coach Doug Christiansen, who saw his squad come close to defeating the ECHL North Division champions on multiple occasions before finally achieving the W on Friday, especially last weekend in St. John’s.
“I think we knocked on the door (last) Friday night in Newfoundland, I think we were the better team. (Last) Saturday night we fell behind early, fair play to Newfoundland,” he said. “Any time you play an opponent, you want to get a win, you want to get confidence and we’ve got that.”
With the playoff spot secured, Manchester happily played the role of spoiler for Maine, with Manchester netminder Charles Williams coming just five minutes short of posting his fourth shutout of the year.
The Monarchs now face the Adirondack Thunder, a team that has faced Manchester in each of their three ECHL postseasons, eliminating the Monarchs twice.
Manchester had the fewest penalty minutes of any ECHL team this season, a side effect of the Monarchs preference to play with a flowing and constant approach: constant passing, constant shooting, constant movement.
Adirondack has been able disrupt that Manchester rhythm at points over the past few months, splitting the season series. However, there is one x-factor that might allow the Monarchs to transition into a more physical approach on demand and that’s Bokondji Imama.
Better known as “Boko”, the second-year professional racked up triple-digit penalty minute figures in three of his five Canadian major junior league seasons, narrowly missing that threshold in 2015-’16.
In 47 combined games for Manchester and in the AHL for Ontario, he’s broken that mark again, taking a fighting major and a misconduct penalty on Wednesday as well as a roughing minor on Saturday that easily could have flared into something much larger.
Despite his reputation as an enforcer, Christiansen emphasizes Imama’s skill in other facets of the game.
“Boko’s a physical player, but it’s not just his physicality, he’s got skill and he skates well. He’s a player that can make plays, but he’s also a player that can make the other team know when he’s on the ice,” said Christiansen. “He’s a great teammate and he brings a lot to our room.”
If the Monarchs can advance past the Thunder, they will face either Newfoundland or the Brampton Beast, with Brampton sealing their spot in the playoffs after defeating the Toledo Walleye on Saturday.
The first two games of the series take place in Glens Falls, NY on Friday and Saturday, returning to Manchester for games on Wednesday and Friday, with all four games starting at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday in Manchester, with Game 6 and 7 occurring in Glens Falls on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m. if they are needed as well.
Top Star of the Week – Pavel Jenys (1 goal, 3 assists, +5, 7 shots)
Second Star – Daniil Miromanov (2 goals*, 0 assists, +4, 6 shots)
Third Star – (tie) Pierre Luc Mercier (1 goal, 2 assists, +4, 11 shots), Tony Cameranesi (2 goals, 0 assists, +2, 12 shots)
(*) – includes shootout goal