READING, PA – Oh look, another overtime game.
The Manchester Monarchs cannot seem to escape overtime in their ECHL North Division Semifinal series against the Reading Royals, defeating the Royals for the third time in a row, with a 4-3 Monday night overtime win.
Reading got onto the board within the first minute thanks to Matt Wilkins, but the Monarchs would answer with a power play goal 9:39 into the period, courtesy of defenceman Colton Saucerman.
The Royals would respond with another power play goal 15:54 into the period, coming on Chris McCarthy’s second point of the night, but the Monarchs would also respond again, this time with a Sam Kurker point-blank shot just a few seconds later.
Manchester and Reading combined for 11 penalties in the first period, and 17 for the contest, which Monarchs head coach Richard Seeley believes came from a combination of divisional animosity and the playoff adrenaline.
“Hats off to our (penalty killing unit). You don’t want to be in a game that’s a special teams fest, but you have to be prepared for it,” said Seeley. “Both teams are playing hard and intense. Often what comes with that is some penalties.”
Reading would take back the lead 5:26 into the second period on yet another power play, this one by Nolan Zajac with McCarthy adding his third point of the night.
However, as if by fate, a poor Royals pass found its way to Zac Lynch halfway through the third period and the Pittsburgh native would tie the game up yet again, giving the game its final score within regulation.
Ultimately, it would take a Rob Hamilton shot through the legs of Reading goaltender John Muse to decide the contest, coming with 2:36 left in the first overtime period.
Manchester outshot Reading for the third straight game, with Muse collecting 52 saves. Now Muse has stopped more than 50 shots in each game of the series, but Manchester’s Charles Williams once again was arguably as impressive in net.
Perhaps Williams’ most notable stretch came late in the third period, where he stopped six Reading shots in the course of just 53 seconds during Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman’s slashing penalty.
“He’s been great all year and really elevated his play in the playoffs,” said Seeley. “He takes great care of his body, to manage a stretch like this as a goaltender with back-to-back double overtime games, lots of shots and then a travel day of seven hours and then another overtime game, hats off to him on his self-discipline and preparation.”
With the loss, Reading has now lost its last nine overtime playoff games, last winning an overtime game against Stockton in Game 1 of the 2013 Kelly Cup Finals.
The two teams now have played almost 90 additional minutes over the first three games. However, Seeley believes the fatigue will not play a role in the near future, allowing his squad to rest their bodies and minds with an off-day on Tuesday, believing that in addition to their quality play will fuel the team moving forward.
“I think we have a lot more energy than we should, you find a way to have energy when you have success. I think guys played with a lot of jump tonight,” said Seeley. “(Now) we’ll turn our heads off and not think about hockey for 24 hours, I think that will be enough for us to recharge and go forward for a big game on Wednesday night here.”
Manchester now leads the series, 3-0. They can eliminate the Royals on Wednesday’s Game 4 in Reading, with the puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.