Thunder remove Monarchs from top of North Division

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Manchester’s Craig Wyszomirski (in white) and Adirondack’s Paul Rodrigues fight for the puck (Adirondack promotional photo)

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GLENS FALLS, N.Y – The Manchester Monarchs had a chance to clinch the ECHL North Division on Friday night, and it was a chance they didn’t take.

Their perennial foes, the Adirondack Thunder defeated Manchester 3-2 on Friday, putting them in sole possession of first place in the North.

Adirondack dominated the early minutes of the contest and the Thunder eventually took advantage thanks to Shane Conacher’s 20th goal of the season.

Spencer Watson’s goal at 14:01 proved to be enough to hold the game even heading into the first intermission, but the Monarchs wouldn’t be able to hold back the Thunder for long.

Shortly after Ashton Rome earned his third misconduct penalty in as many weeks, the Thunder once again took advantage.

First, Matthew Spencer finished off a 2-on-1 breakaway, sliding the puck under Manchester netminder Charles Williams at 6:27 in the second.

Spencer’s goal was followed 72 seconds later as Paul Rodrigues made the most of a poor Rob Hamilton defensive zone penalty kill clearance attempt, transforming the intercepted pass into a wrister past Williams’ glove.

Manchester finally took the offensive initiative following Rodrigues’ goal, outshooting Adirondack 28-4 over the remainder of the game, but they couldn’t edge closer until Williams left for an extra skater with about four minutes left in regulation.

The Monarchs’ second goal came courtesy of Cory Ward, who capitalized on a rebound of Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman’s rebound following Kevin Morris’ deflection of David Kolomatis’ slapshot.

Unfortunately for the Monarchs, Ward’s shot would be the final shot of the game, with Adirondack successfully milking the rest of the clock.

Adirondack now has 87 points and one game left: Sunday’s contest in Brampton.

Meanwhile, Manchester can improve on its 86-point total with one last home-and-home pair of games against Worcester on Saturday and Sunday.

The Monarchs can still clinch the division no matter what happens in Brampton by winning both of their remaining games or avoiding a regulation loss both of those games.

Due to their clear advantage regarding playoff tiebreakers, if Adirondack cannot win in Brampton, the Monarchs can still clinch the division if they can avoid a regulation losses in at least one of the final two games.

Whoever wins the division will play Worcester in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs, with the Railers qualifying for postseason play following Wheeling’s Friday night loss to Brampton.