Facing their first year as a part of a new league, the Manchester Monarchs faced many unknowns. While the organization itself was coming off of a Calder Cup victory in the American Hockey League, the Monarchs were relegated to the ECHL after a wave of AHL relocations. With a new roster and new group of management, the Monarchs had a new challenge ahead.
Thus far, they’ve met it head on, and they have succeeded.
The Monarchs head into the Christmas break with 37 points and sit atop the East division, one point ahead of the red-hot Elmira Jackals. Overall, the Monarchs sit just behind the Florida Everblades 42 point total to be second in the Eastern Conference, and the 45 points from the Missouri Mavericks to have the third highest total in the entire league. Manchester has shown confidence all year, leading the league in shots on goal and advancing eight different players into the AHL.
That would be quite the entrance into the unknown.
Led by the 29 points from leading scorer Matt Leitner, the Monarchs first season in hockey’s version of Double A have exceeded all expectations. Leiter, a rookie, leads all first year players with his 22 assists and represents the surprise that Manchester has been this season. The Monarchs tear has been since October, which is the last time they lost two games in a row. Their 18-10-0-1 record has them in contention to finish atop the conference.
Maxim Kitsyn and Stefan Legein have both also emerged as top scorers with the Monarchs, with Legein especially stepping up in the past week. Scoring has been the Monarchs key this season, with the club undefeated when scoring three goals or more.
Goaltender Steve Mastalerz made 30 saves in his first appearance in the pros this month, offering the Monarchs another option in the crease.
Manchester ended the first part of its season on a three-games-in-three-days stretch where they defeated Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne before being shut out by Toledo, snapping an eight-game points streak. Going into the break with a 2-0 loss to the Walleye and losing two of their best players to the AHL isn’t the way the Monarchs wanted to finish up, but they have to focus on the second half of the season ahead.
The Monarchs return on Saturday night when they travel to Adirondack to take on the Thunder. It will be the first game in a home-and-home series and the Thunder trail Manchester by three points in the standings, but they have played six less games than the Monarchs.