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A sort of homecoming for Stingrays' Arnold

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 20. 2017 10:47PM
South Carolina's Derek Arnold (20) battles Manchester's Cory Ward during Friday's Eastern Conference Finals Game 4 of the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs held at SNHU Arena in Manchester. The teams played in Game 5 of the series Saturday night. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER — Games 1 and 2 of the ECHL Eastern Conference Finals were weird for South Carolina Stingrays forward Derek Arnold. It took him a few games to get used to taking hits from and trying to score on his former Manchester Monarchs teammates.

Arnold, a Foxborough, Mass., native, logged 70 points (28 goals, 42 assists) in 100 games for Manchester over the past two seasons. The Monarchs dealt the UMass Lowell product to South Carolina on March 6 in exchange for right-shot defenseman Colton Saucerman.

“That’s just the way it goes and it’s hockey,” Arnold said after the Stingrays beat Manchester, 2-1, in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series Friday night at SNHU Arena. “They’re playing hard. We’re playing hard against those guys….They’ve got a lot of dynamic players and it’s pretty cool to actually be able to play against them at this time.”

Monarchs coach Rich Seeley said the team thought highly of Arnold but felt the trade made sense because it had a hole to fill on defense.

“It was a tough one to pull the trigger on but we had a need,” Seeley said. “We felt like we had some really good depth up front and needed a little more depth on the back end….Especially on the right shot, a guy that could move the puck through the seem and score on a one-timer on the power play, that was something we thought we were missing and that’s why we pulled the trigger on that one.”

Arnold had tallied 14 points (five goals, nine assists) for the Stingrays since the trade heading into Game 5 Saturday night. He recorded two goals and three assists, one of which came against Manchester in Game 2, over his first 14 playoff games with South Carolina.

“When he has time and space, he can make some good plays and he can be creative offensively,” Seeley said of Arnold. “We need to be hard on him and be physical.”

Monarchs forward Matt Leitner is more than familiar with Arnold’s game after playing with him each of the last two seasons. Leitner called Arnold a smart, pass-first hockey player and echoed Seeley’s sentiments about needing to be physical against him.

“That’s the strange thing about this game,” Leitner said. “You’ve got to play against guys that you battled with for a long time and as hard as that is, once you get on the ice you’ve got to battle. And he knows that and we know that. There’s no friends on the ice.”

Arnold said his time with the Monarchs showed him how to handle the ups and downs that come throughout a season. It also showed him what it takes to be a top-caliber team.

“When I played here in Manchester — they still are a heck of a team — but when I was here, obviously we had some first-place teams and a lot of things were going well,” Arnold said.

Arnold has fond memories of his time with the Monarchs but he isn’t letting them deter him from helping the Stingrays reach the Kelly Cup Finals. And he wouldn’t exactly characterize his experience playing against his former team as a bad one.

“Playing with those guys, it was a lot of fun but it’s also fun playing against them,” Arnold said.

Monarchs Manchester