BRAMPTON, ON — The Brampton Beast disposed of the Reading Royals in six 6 tough games in the first round of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs. Each game was essentially decided by one goal, not withstanding an empty-net goal in the series ending game.
Entering new territory for the Beast is nothing this season as they have smashed numerous individual and franchise marks enroute to their first ever second round playoff appearance. In the division final, they will be facing the Manchester Monarchs, the ECHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. The Monarchs are a very skilled and mobile team.
The Royals used their speed and an aggressive style effectively in round 1. While both the Royals and Beast were capable of scoring goals, their playoffs games were low scoring. The Monarchs are also capable of putting the puck in the net. Will we see more games finishing 5-4 in the second round?
Let’s look at each team by position.
Brampton is, as usual, led by Zach Fucale. The 21-year-old goaltender was spectacular in five appearances in the first round posting a 1.20 goals against average (GAA) and a .959 save percentage (Sv%). Against a very offensively-gifted team like the Monarchs, Fucale will be hard-pressed to maintain those numbers.
When focused, Zach can certainly dominate a game and steal a victory. Fucale needs to pay particular attention to his rebound control against the Monarchs who will do their best to take shots from close proximity and swarming the crease area.
At the other end of the ice is Sam Brittain, the former fourth round pick of the Florida Panthers. Brittain was effective in the opening round helping the Monarchs dispose of the Adirondack Thunder, regular season champions of the North Division. Sporting a 2.34 GAA and a respectable .924 Sv%, Brittain will have to be on top of his game this round. The Beast has the ability to get scoring from any of their three forward lines which will present problems for Manchester. Look for the Beast to beat Brittain high or via the five-hole.
These teams are what you would call polar opposites at the defence position. Manchester employs small mobile defencemen except for the duo of Craig Wysomiaski and Thomas Schemitsch, who are used in a shutdown role. The Monarchs defence is not afraid to join the rush and do so on a regular basis to create odd man rushes.
The Beast are led by veteran Jordan Henry who is leading the team in scoring in the playoffs. Henry and Willie Corrin are the only true offensive defencemen on the roster for Brampton. The Beast are a team that generates offence from the first pass out of their zone instead of a defenceman carrying the puck. Look for the Beast to try and slow the Monarch forwards on zone entry and create turnovers into scoring chances.
Both teams are solid upfront. As mentioned, the Beast can generate offence from all three lines. Manchester has balanced scoring from their top two lines. The Beast will need to pay special attention to Quentin Shore, a gifted forward has seven points in six playoff games. Look for the trio of David Pacan, Brandon Marino and Chris Auger to have a breakout series. Brampton is too talented at the forward position to be denied goals especially against a team with a small defensive corps.
Don’t be surprised if this series turns into a track meet with the teams trading goals often. With the bulk of the offence for Brampton coming from their forwards and Manchester scoring from all five positions on the ice, it will be a very exciting series. This is a very good match-up for the North Division title.