The Manchester Monarchs are a little more than one-third of the way through their ECHL schedule and, while there are areas to improve, coach Doug Christiansen said the team has established its identity.
The first-year bench boss said Manchester has a high compete level, consistent work ethic and a desire to play to the best of its ability.
“We have to make sure we do that the rest of the way because our division is very tight,” Christiansen said.
The Monarchs (13-10-1-1) are in fifth place in the seven-team North Division and ninth in the Eastern Conference entering their two-game homestand this weekend. Manchester will host the Reading Royals (13-7-2-4) tonight (7) and the Maine Mariners (14-11-0-1) Saturday night (6) at SNHU Arena.
Reading is second in the North Division while Maine is in fourth place. The Newfoundland Growlers lead the division with a 19-8-1-0 record.
“We’ve helped develop players and help move them on to the American (Hockey) League while maintaining team success,” Christiansen said. “Our division is very tight from second place all the way to the bottom. ... We’ve been playing good hockey this month and I look forward to continue doing that this weekend.”
Manchester has gone 5-2 since the calendar turned to December and is 6-4 over its last 10 games.
The Monarchs have also seen a league-leading nine players receive AHL call-ups so far this season. One of those nine players is forward Matt Marcinew, who is currently with the Springfield Thunderbirds. The 25-year-old registered 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) over 25 games for Manchester this season.
Christiansen said Monarchs captain David Kolomatis, a defenseman, has done a “really nice job helping to lead the team.” Kolomatis, 29, has worn the C on his sweater for several seasons, helping guide Manchester’s younger players like forward Nic Pierog, who ranks 15th in the ECHL in rookie scoring with 19 points (13 goals, six assists).
Pierog, 25, recorded 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) over his career at Clarkson University.
“He’s been a real highlight for us and someone who has a bright future,” Christiansen said of Pierog.
Christiansen, 40, became the Monarchs’ head coach and general manager this past summer after serving four years as the USHL’s Director of Player Development and Recruitment. He previously spent seven seasons coaching in the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom.
“Every single day of the job is solving a problem,” Christiansen said of his role with Manchester. “There’s a lot of rewards with that but as you can imagine, it’s a daily challenge and you don’t know where it’s going to come from. A prime example of that is that we’re affiliated with Los Angeles but we also have a goalie from Florida. Well, (the Kings’) Jonathan Quick and (the Panthers’) Roberto Luongo got hurt within 36 hours of each other to start the season and we lost literally both our goalies in a day and a half.
“The excitement and pressure that comes along with coaching and now all of a sudden trying to find players that can help you not only fill a spot but do the job, that part is rewarding.”
Christiansen said his team works as hard as any other in pro hockey. He does not see any reason why his club cannot contend for the Kelly Cup while helping players progress to the AHL and NHL this season.
“Our goal is to move players on individually and come together as a team,” Christiansen said. “We’ve had success with that at the 25-game mark. I’m pleased with how our identity has been established.”