The Chase for the Kelly Cup begins with a Round 1 matchup between the Manchester Monarchs and the Reading Royals. Manchester finished second in the North Division, just a point behind the Adirondack Thunder. The Monarchs and Royals were separated in the standings by just one point, this despite the fact that Reading won the season series.
Game 1 – Friday, April 13 at 7 p.m. ET at Manchester
Game 2 – Saturday, April 14 at 6 p.m. ET at Manchester
Game 3 – Monday, April 16 at 7 p.m. ET at Reading
Game 4 – Wednesday, April 18 at 7 p.m. ET at Reading
Game 5 – Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. ET at Reading (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Saturday, April 21 at 6 p.m. ET at Manchester (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Tuesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. ET at Manchester (If Necessary)
Statistics Comparison (Numbers in Parenthesis are ranking in the ECHL)
Overall Record: 41-25-3-3 (8)
Home Record: 20-14-1-1 (14)
Away Record: 21-11-2-2 (4)
Last 10 Games: 4-5-0-1
Goals Scored: 257 (4)
Goals Allowed: 214 (7)
Power Play: 18.5% (7)
Penalty Killing: 84.7% (7)
Overall Record: 39-24-9-0 (9)
Home Record: (24-10-2-0
Away Record: 15-14-7-0 (6)
Last 10 Games: 6-3-1-0 (12)
Goals Scored: 232 (12)
Goals Allowed: 199 (6)
Power Play: 16.0% (20)
Penalty Killing: 84.4% (8)
Monarchs Players to Watch:
Jordan LaVallee-Smotherman: 69 games, 34 goals, 38 assists, 72 points; Zac Lynch: 58 games, 22 goals, 24 assists, 46 points; Spencer Watson: 48 games, 25 goals, 20 assists, 45 points
Charles Williams: 42 games, 22-12-3-2, 1 ShO, 2.68 GAA, .912 save percentage; Evan Crowley: 19 games, 9-9-0-1, 2 ShO, 3.15 GAA, .902 save percentage
Royals Players to Watch:
Matt Willows: 72 games, 32 goals, 42 assists, 74 points; Chris McCarthy: 66 games, 22 goals, 38 assists, 60 points; Matt Wilkins: 54 games, 20 goals, 27 assists, 47 points
John Muse: 26 games, 19-5-2-0, 3 ShO, 2.24 GAA, .931 save percentage; Branden Komm: 29 games, 14-9-4-0, 2 ShO, 2.60 GAA, .917 save percentage.
Manchester is an extremely talented team, but there is a lot of youth here. They will likely be using their two rookie netminders entering the playoffs, which can be a real crapshoot when trying to figure out how they will handle the postseason experience. Watson and Michael Doherty (the Monarchs’ fourth leading scorer with 20 goals and 24 assists) are also rookies, which could be a lot of pressure at this time of year.
Komm was dealt by Manchester to Reading earlier this year, and he has delivered an outstanding performance in the net, combining with Muse to give the Royals a top-notch 1-2 punch in net. Add to the fact that Reading plays extremely well defensively, ranked sixth in the ECHL in goals allowed, and it is easy to see why they are in the postseason. A strong defensive team is likely to go a long way come playoff time.
Who Will Win:
These two teams are about equal offensively, making the difference in this contest about defense and the intangibles. Reading has the veteran presence in areas where it counts most, so look for them to advance. Reading won the season series (5-4-0-0) and we expect them to continue that trend. Take the Royals in the battle of royalty, 4 games to 2.
By Robert Pannier