EXETER -- When the sun rose on the hockey world this past Friday it first cast its light on Exeter. It was here, at the edge of the hockey universe, that the Manchester Monarchs lived to play another game.
The Monarchs defeated the Newfoundland Growlers 2-1 in overtime in game five of their second round series to send the series back to St. John’s. However, the tale of the night was the venue.
The Rinks at Exeter are no stranger to big-time hockey, but it is usually featuring much younger players. The home to several local high school, youth, and junior programs, the facility stepped in when the Monarchs needed a home for a game due to a scheduling conflict with Monster Jam at SNHU Arena.
With great sight lines, a sizable lobby, and even a full bar, the Rinks were ready to take on the task of hosting a playoff game.
“We have a connection with them here,” Monarchs public relations coordinator Parker Wheeler said. “We’ve done our preseason games here before. They cover all the regulations that the ECHL needs. We’re very comfortable working with them. A lot of places around here don’t even have their ice in so we were very fortunate.”
Some of those regulations include myriad things from having a goalie’s trapezoid painted on the ice to having glass between the penalty boxes.
Laurie Perkins, a Seabrook native and employee of the facility, said that everyone was a bit panicked when the news came down that the pros were coming to town, but that that was overridden by the excitement she saw in the community.
“We had a lot of calls when they found out the game was coming here,” Perkins said. “Calls every day to find out if the game was really happening here, what the prices would be, if it was for real.”
The smaller facility allowed for fans to be right on top of the action and even stand alongside the glass throughout. It was loud and energetic throughout.
The game ebbed and flowed early as both teams tried to find their rhythm in the smaller room. Eventually the Monarchs broke through first with a goal from team captain David Kolomatis. Kolomatis said that playing in Exeter provided a boost for the club.
“The fans were loud,” Kolomatis said. “It was a lively building. Having them on top of you gets the energy up on the bench. Having the fans come out and support us was huge today.”
With people coming from across the state, the chance to see their Monarchs out in the community was too good to pass up. Tyler Barlow, a Rochester native, said he would be a fan of more Monarchs games at local rinks if the situation were to arise.
“I think it would be great,” Barlow said. “A lot of people can go after work if it’s local in their town, and tickets are a lot cheaper with no fees or anything like that.”
Pierre-Luc Mercier scored the game winner 2:16 into overtime, sending the capacity crowd home happy and keeping the Monarchs season alive at least until Monday, when they will play game six of the series at Mile One Centre.
“It was fun,” Monarchs coach Doug Christiansen said. “I think it gave the guys some jump. Coming into a new environment, a different style of game, I thought was really good for us. We got the win and move on and survive.”