Monarchs A True Team
The 2011-12 American Hockey League season saw record breaking winning streaks, highlight reel goals and saves, and top-level hockey by the future stars of the NHL. Monarchs Country will remember the 2011-12 Manchester Monarchs as a young, resilient team that refused to be out-worked by their opponents, often grinding out victories by the narrowest of margins.
There was never a dull moment with the Monarchs this season. Manchester went on several crucial winning streaks and was never satisfied, always looking to be better the next game. The Monarchs losing streaks were rebounded with hard-nosed battles as they fought their way to their 10th playoff appearance in 11 seasons.
“That is a tribute to the character in the locker room we had,” said Monarchs AHL All-Star goaltender Jeff Zatkoff. “A young team but a lot of character guys who no matter what the score was, they played to the end. I think that is why we were in every game on every single night.”
Their resiliency kept the Monarchs in the hunt for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff seed. Heading into the final weekend, the Monarchs needed three victories against three Eastern Conference playoff teams: the Connecticut Whale, the Hershey Bears and their AHL best 11 Calder Cup Championships and the Atlantic Division Champions, the St. John’s IceCaps.
“It came down to that last weekend and we all came together” said Monarchs two-year captain Marc-Andre Cliche. “We had to win all three to make the playoffs. I think it was unbelievable to win the final three games to make the playoffs against the teams we had to play.”
Fans will reminisce about sweeping the final weekend, making the Calder Cup Playoffs and ending the Norfolk Admirals record 29-game winning streak but the players will also turn the attention away from their on ice accomplishments. Zatkoff instantly thought of the Monarchs Operation Appreciation night in March which honored all the men and women who serve the Manchester community.
“I think my favorite memory was when we had the tribute night to Officer (Dan) Doherty, who was shot on duty,” reflected Zatkoff. “It was a sold out arena and we came out and played very well. The crowd and community was behind us and it was just a memorable game.”
Another great moment this season was more of a sense of pride for what the team accomplished as the youngest organization in the American Hockey League.
“The last game of the regular season and knowing that when it ended, that we came together as a group and did what a lot of people said we would not do and came back and made the playoffs,” said Monarchs right wing Stefan Legein who tied for the league lead with five shorthanded goals in the regular season. “That was big for me and big for our team.”
The 2011-12 Monarchs started the season as a group of talent individuals but finished as a unit that stood up for each other and played for one another. The Monarchs showed characteristics of a team, in every sense of the word, that made Monarchs Country the proudest fans in the league.