Beast Weekly Wrap | ECHL North Division Title to Be Decided in Brampton
Manchester Monarchs vs Brampton Beast series report
BRAMPTON, ON — All four teams qualifying for the playoffs in the ECHL’s North Division were evenly matched with just eight points separating first from fourth place. With such parity, it should be no surprise that the top two seeds were eliminated in the opening round of the post-season.
With Brampton finishing third, they garnered home ice in North Division Finals. That in itself is a tough challenge, with ECHL playoff format of 2-3-2. It certainly favours the lower seeded team, as the team with home ice advantage has the urgency to win both opening games before travelling to play three in the other team’s barn.
In the second round, Brampton had to weather the storm in the first periods of the series by the Manchester Monarchs, as they threw everything they had at the Beast and Zach Fucale. The young prospect of the Montreal Canadiens was up to the challenge, turning the Monarchs back time and time again.
Fucale has never looked better in his pro career as he appears to be in a zone. Having covered the Beast all season long, I haven’t seen the young goaltender so focused and driven.
The game boiled down to the Beast outlasting the Monarchs and Montreal draft pick Connor Crisp scoring a pair of goals, including the overtime winner. That was the third time the Beast ventured into overtime, winning all three games.
Fucale stopped 45 shots by the Monarchs in that game. It was the third game in succession that he stopped at least 40 shots by the opposition.
Game two was more of the same, as the Monarchs came flying out of the gate in the opening period. However, Fucale shut the door again, and a lucky bounce allowed the Beast a 1-0 first period lead.
In the second period, shoddy defensive coverage allowed Manchester to crash the net and tie the game. Brampton was guilty of running around in their own end and the Monarchs had a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.
Brampton found their stride and were the better team in the final period. They were a crossbar away from tying the game and getting that all important 2-0 series lead. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and the Monarchs added an empty net goal with 30 seconds left to secure the victory and tie the series.
With the series shifting to Manchester, it was imperative for the Beast to find their scoring touch from the regular season. It appeared that Brampton players were squeezing their sticks a little too tight and were forcing plays that aren’t there.
Again the Monarchs were strong from the drop of the puck as they poured on the pressure and roared out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period. Brampton didn’t look like the same team that played Manchester tight on every shift in the opening two games.
The second period saw the Monarchs increase their lead to 4-0 and all but lock down the victory.
Brampton finally awoke in the final period but couldn’t solve goaltender Sam Brittain as he recorded the shutout. The Beast did have some push-back in the final period with a few spirited fights that were meant to set the tone for game four.
The second game in Manchester was familiar to the Beast as they once again trailed in the opening period. The Monarchs threw everything they had at Zach Fucale and it appeared to me that Brampton wasn’t ready to play. The Beast took needless penalties that resulted in two power-play goals for the Monarchs.
To his credit, Zach Fucale kept battling all night and tried to keep the score respectable but he had little help on the evening. During the third period, the Beast abandoned any semblance of a defensive game trying to get close on the scoreboard. But that too failed as the Monarchs added three more goals to make it a 6-1 final.
Finally, it seemed that the Beast came to play and play they did having, in my opinion, their best game of the series. Veteran David Ling opened the scoring for the Beast in the first period with a power-play goal. Brampton was much more responsible in their own end limiting the Monarchs scoring chances to a minimum.
Goaltender Zach Fucale, as he has done all playoffs long, kept the Monarchs at bay until the mid-point of the second period when the Monarchs connected on the power-play to tie the score.
The unlikely hero on the night was defenceman Reggie Traccitto who scored the winner on the power play for Brampton with a little over 10 minutes to play. Fucale slammed the door the rest of the way to send the series back to Brampton.
ECHL RECAP | Beast – Monarchs: Brampton Brings Series Back Home
The series resumes at the Powerade Centre on Friday night for Game 6 with Game 7 (if necessary) scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
David Pacan, who tied for the goal scoring lead in the ECHL, seems to be snake-bitten and needs to break out if the Beast want to be successful in the final two games of the series.
Looking strictly at the numbers, you may think that Manchester goaltender, Sam Brittain, is playing on par with Fucale. Truth is, it isn’t that close.
Brittain has been the benefactor of the Beast’s inability to finish off scoring plays and the lack of in close scoring chances. Don’t get me wrong, Brittain has been outstanding at times, but he isn’t carrying his team.
Until game five, the power-play has also not been kind to the Beast as they have struggled controlling play in the offensive zone. Both Brandon MacLean and Connor Crisp have been the most consistent Brampton forwards in the second round.
Another forward who has excelled through both rounds when he has been in the lineup is veteran, David Ling. His name isn’t always easy to find on the scoresheet, but it’s the little things that he does on the ice, like stirring trouble.
Ling’s veteran presence is most notable on the power-play. He patrols the point on the man advantage and is the only Beast player who has consistently played well in that situation. Ling picked up his first goal of the playoffs in game 5 on the power-play.
In my opinion, Fucale has carried this team. Expect him to continue to do so as far as the Beast go into the playoffs, but he needs goal production from his forwards. Brampton must rediscover the quick-strike offence they had during the regular season. That could be the deciding factor in this series.
Edited by Donna Sim