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Monarchs happy to be home

By JOE DUBALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 06. 2018 12:34AM




It's been a long time since the Manchester Monarchs have played a hockey game at SNHU Arena. Twenty-one days to be exact.

Circumstances and scheduling conflicts have been no friend to the Monarchs, who will host the Adirondack Thunder in Game 5 of the ECHL North Division Finals tonight at 6 p.m. with the series tied 2-2.

Manchester's last home game was April 14, which was Game 2 of the North Division Semifinals. After wrapping that series sweep with two wins in Reading, Pa., the Monarchs played the first four games of the North Division Finals in Glen Falls, N.Y. due to a scheduling conflict at SNHU Arena.

"We went through it last year, so we kind of found out pretty quickly which restaurants we wanted to keep going to and the others not so much," said Monarchs defenseman David Kolomatis, referring to how Manchester played four consecutive games in Glens Falls during last season's North Division Semifinals with Adirondack. "I think we had our itineraries planned better this time around.

"We would've liked some home games to start, but it is what it is. When it comes to playoff time, you have to prepare for everything."

The Monarchs and Thunder have alternated wins thus far, including Manchester's 3-0 win in Game 4 on Thursday. That win gives the Monarchs an opportunity to win the series at home over the next two days as they host Game 6 Monday at 7 p.m. However, playing without its back against the wall tonight is what Manchester is most pleased about.

"Can't say we wouldn't have liked one or two more wins, but it's nice to say we came out of everything tied with two home games ahead," Monarchs forward Kevin Morris said. "We did the job we needed to do. There's momentum here now as we get back home and we're planning on rolling with it."

Monarchs head coach Rich Seeley was pleased to bookend the first four games of the series with wins, but admitted to some lapses in play on both ends of the ice that led to losses. Considering Manchester and Adirondack have seen each other 17 times so far this season after last year's playoff series, Seeley won't make drastic changes to try fooling the Thunder at this point.

"You see some subtle adjustments as the series goes between stuff to help your players and other circumstances," Seeley said. "The comfort level obviously changes a bit in our building, but the game on the ice really won't change much. It's about executing, managing the puck well and executing."

Seeley pointed to depth as a strength for Manchester all season, but especially in the playoffs, where the Monarchs have swapped players in and out of the lineup. The most interesting decision to watch tonight is whether Seeley will go with backup goalie Evan Cowley, who posted an 18-save shutout in a start on Thursday, or turn back to starter Charles Williams, who has allowed 13 goals in three games and was relieved by Cowley in Game 2 and 3.

"We're not sure yet," said Seeley of who will start between the pipes. "Charles has given us some great starts in the playoffs, but we were looking to change things up. It's something we've been doing. I don't think we've dressed the same lineup back to back so far in the playoffs.

"Regardless, our group and staff are confident we have two goaltenders we can lean on and rely on here. That's key when you want to have success."

Adirondack has outscored Manchester 13-12 in the series, but the Thunder have shown they're capable of an offensive outburst while pouncing on Monarchs mistakes. Kolomatis and Morris agreed that fewer risks and penalties will be important.

"It's about remaining disciplined and not giving their skill guys or power play guys an opportunity," Kolomatis said. "If they get on the ice a lot, they keep touching the puck and getting confidence. We got away from preventing that in these first four games. It's led to us being taxed on our (the defensive) end, which can't keep happening."

jduball@unionleader.com


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