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Monarchs open playoffs tonight against Railers at SNHU Arena

Staff report
April 12. 2018 8:01PM
The Worcester Railers and the Manchester Monarchs faced off at SNHU Arena in Manchester Saturday night in an ECHL hockey game.Monarchs' Matt Schmalz scores his first period goal past Railers' goalie Will King. (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)

When the Manchester Monarchs played in the AHL, from 2001 to 2008 the Reading Royals were their ECHL affiliate, all under the Los Angeles Kings’ umbrella. Tonight, though, the clubs turn adversaries when Manchester hosts Game 1 of the ECHL North Division semifinals.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. at SNHU Arena.

Manchester, in its third season in the ECHL, carries the No. 2 seed into the best-of-seven series against the third-seeded Royals. The Monarchs, 41-25-3-3-3 (their most wins since joining the league) will play host tonight and tomorrow night (6 p.m.) before the series moves to Reading, Pa., for Games 3,4 and 5 (if necessary) next Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. If Games 6 or 7 are necessary, they would be played next Saturday and Tuesday, April 24, back in Manchester.

The Monarchs, 4-3-0-2 against Reading this season, were led by first-time ECHL All-Star Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman, who netted 34 goals and 38 assists for 72 points. There’s a wide gap between LaVallee-Smotherman and the next-highest scorer, Zac Lynch (22-24-46). Other 20-goal scorers for the Monarchs are Spencer Watson, who at age 21 notched 25 goals and 20 assists, the 22-year-old Matt Schmalz (23 goals) and Michael Doherty (20).

Charles Williams played 42 of the Monarchs’ 72 games in net, compiling a 2.68 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

The Royals, now affiliated with the Philadelphia Flyers, boast three players with Granite State connections on their playoff roster.

Forward Brian Morgan, of Windham, logged nine goals and nine assists this season. The former University of Maine and University of Connecticut skater played in 42 of the club’s games.

Reading also has a pair of former University of New Hampshire teammates in forward Matt Willows and defenseman Matias Cleland. Willows, a 2015 UNH grad, led the Royals with 74 points, notching 32 goals and 42 assists. Cleland, the Wildcats’ captain in his senior season (2016-17), split his time between Reading (42 games) and Orlando of the ECHL (25 games), notching a combined two goals and 15 assists.

The Reading goalie will most likely be former Boston College star John Muse, who posted a 2.24 goals-against average and .931 saves percentage, which was second in the league. Muse also spent 15 games with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL.

Monarchs Manchester