The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs are certainly looking forward to a full and positive season.
Last year began with the most heart-wrenching of all news when former NCDC Jr. Monarchs Head Coach Ryan Frew became ill and passed away within two weeks, shaking the Monarchs family and all of the USPHL to the core.
They forged on, however, and went into a season of ups, downs, stops and starts, due to COVID restrictions. Hub City Tampa helped them get 20 games of a “normal” schedule in Florida, but the Monarchs are now ready for a real normal and full schedule. That schedule begins with a Sept. 24 1 p.m. game against their in-state rivals the Northern Cyclones.
They will go into this 2021-22 season with a new NCDC Head Coach in Clint Edinger, who may be new to this position for the NCDC team, but he’s been involved with the Monarchs for nearly a dozen years as their strength and conditioning coach, back to when he was coaching the former Empire League Monarchs as an assistant and later head coach.
His Edinger’s Edge is the on-site, off-ice training facility at the Monarchs’ home Tri-Town Ice Arena in Hooksett, N.H. Edinger was also previously the Monarchs’ USPHL 18U head coach for eight years. Edinger began the Monarchs’ Midgets program at that time.
“I like the group we have to work with. We have a lot of new faces, some younger guys and also players without NCDC experience,” said Edinger. “So far their compete level has been high and they come to work every day both on and off the ice.”
In their first three years, the Monarchs have never finished worse than eighth - nor better than fifth - so while they have always been a competitive force, they have not yet pulled it together to the point of making a deep playoff run. With the NCDC-tested experience coming to the 2021-22 squad, this is the year that may change.
“The strengths are that we have a handful of returners from the team last year, so they understand our culture at the Monarchs. These players will be relied upon to help groom the newcomers,” added Edinger. “Last year, we had a couple players that could score goals every night. We need to find those guys this year and in time I believe we will.
“It’s an adjustment playing at this level in terms of speed and being able to process the game,” Edinger said. “We definitely have some pieces to the puzzle, we just need to find the right spots for them.”
The experienced players set up as leaders by example include high-scoring forward Aidan Curran, ‘03 two-way forward Ryan O’Halloran and defenseman Ryan Cardow. Curran and Cardow are both in their fifth season with the Monarchs, and both have been with the team since the 16U level.
“These three have been the voice of the players so far,” Edinger said. “All three of these players have been leading by example on the ice and during team workouts.”
Along with Cardow and Ross coming back, Zander Lizotte also brings a full season of NCDC hockey and was honored as the November 2020 Defenseman Of The Month.
Similar to Curran’s and Cardow’s pedigree, four more players have come through the Monarchs system to the NCDC pinnacle. Tanner Hartman and Lane Ruffner are getting promotions from the Premier squad, while former 18U players Charlie Ross, Edijs Grigojevs and goalie Mitchell Day jump directly up from the Midget level. Incoming forwards Ben Muthersbaugh, Bodie Molnar, Seth Bernard, David Bazile and Hunter Dunn have Edinger “very excited” about their scoring potential.
Muthersbaugh is another former Monarchs Midget player, playing USPHL 16U back in 2018-19, where he was a teammate of new defensemen Luke Santilli and Kevin Golden. They’ll be joined on the back end by fellow newcomer Lucas Constantine, a California native and product of the Los Angeles Jr. Kings system.
Vinny Castelletti comes in from the Monarchs’ USPHL Premier Affiliate the Minnesota Blue Ox. “He will be someone to keep an eye on,” Edinger added. “He has been very solid.”
Solid all around is what the Monarchs will need in a North Division that just seems to get tougher every year.
“Our expectations are to be the hardest working team every night for 60 minutes,” Edinger said. “Every game will be a battle in not only the North division but the league in general. The goal is to continue to develop these future college players by providing the tools for them to be successful.It will take a little time to adjust but, with systems in place, everyone’s hard work and having a solid team atmosphere, we will be ready to compete each day.”