by Griffin Spencer || AHL On The Beat Archive
Left wing Jeff Giuliano’s place in Manchester Monarchs history is unquestioned.
The gritty winger skated for six seasons wearing the Monarchs colors, playing in a career-high and franchise-record 80 games during the 2003-04 season. Holding sole possession of third place in games played in franchise history with 273, the ironman was the epitome of a fan favorite, being the only player to win the Union Leader Fan Favorite Award two seasons in a row, in addition to being named the AHL Man of the Year and garnering Monarchs Community Service Award honors during the 2004-05 season.
Playing for parts of six seasons is a long time for one player to stay with an AHL franchise. The lasting memories he provided to Monarchs Country are just as memorable and significant as the memories provided by Monarchs Country to himself.
“I can’t really pinpoint any moments that were better than others – I just have so many great memories,” explained Giuliano, who played with the Manchester Monarchs beginning in the 2002-03 season and ending with the 2007-08 season. “The most memorable moments would have to be the overtime wins we had in the playoffs.”
Giuliano is, of course, referring to the magical run that Manchester had throughout the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs, which saw the Monarchs edge out the Worcester Sharks and the Providence Bruins, both in six-game series, before being swept by the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears.
“I also remember [Brian] Brian Boyle scoring in double overtime in Worcester,” said Giuliano, discussing the series-clinching goal that Boyle scored to lift the Monarchs to their first playoff series victory.
Giuliano was also a crucial part of the 2004-05 Monarchs season, which saw the team post franchise highs in wins (51) and points (110).
“During the lockout, I think we started out at 20-1, so that was probably my most memorable season,” said Giuliano, who played in 69 games for the Monarchs that season, collecting eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points.
In addition, Giuliano fondly remembers Mullet Night from the 2003-04 season, which saw the Hanson Brothers, immortalized as members of the Charlestown Chiefs in the classic hockey movie Slap Shot, inducted into the Mullet Hall of Fame.
Despite all of the team-oriented successes and memories that he has of the fan base, he could not help but remember a certain moment during the third game of the 2006 Calder Cup Atlantic Division semifinals.
“I remember when I scored in overtime against Hartford,” explained Giuliano. The overhead photo of him scoring the game-winner that night still hangs in the Monarchs locker room.
Center Steve Kelly was part of the inaugural Monarchs squad that took the ice in 2001 and played in Manchester for three seasons. Kelly holds several spots in the Monarchs all-time record books: He is tied for 10th place all-time in goals scored (50), second all-time in assists (114), fourth all-time in points (164), 10th all-time in penalty minutes (349), fourth all-time in shorthanded goals (fourth) and fifth all-time in plus/minus rating (+40).
The Vancouver, B.C., native’s most recent AHL campaign was with Syracuse during the 2008-09 season, where he recorded 22 points (10-12=22) in 45 games for the Crunch. Nowadays, Kelly is working hard, training to become a police officer back home in Canada.
Despite retiring from the game, Kelly looks back fondly upon his time playing the game, specifically his time in Manchester.
“One of the things I remember vividly about Manchester and the Monarchs was when I first came there and we opened the arena,” explained Kelly. “I remember looking around the stands and I couldn’t believe I was in the AHL, not the NHL. The rink was probably the nicest and, no question, the fans were also the best.”
The Manchester Monarchs opened their new arena in 2001 and went on to not only rank first in attendance in the American Hockey League, but also lead the more than 90 other North American minor-pro hockey teams in existence for the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons.
Kelly believes that the three seasons that he spent in Manchester were the most fun that he had in his career.
“From the guys I played with, to the coaches and front office staff, it was a great group for myself and I know my wife would say the same thing,” said Kelly.
The fan support didn’t stop when the final horn sounded at the games, either.
“The support we had from the community was another amazing thing –- games would end and we would go for dinner, with numerous restaurants and pubs offering to cook meals for the team,” said Kelly.
Kelly has, in fact, become friends with different business owners and members of the community.
“We made lifelong friends with a lot of the people around the Monarchs organization and also have great friends in the community that we still come back to visit whenever we can,” said Kelly.
“I know how much I enjoyed my time [in Manchester], and I will always have a connection to Manchester and the Monarchs Hockey Club.”
Another walk down memory lane brings us to left wing Matt Moulson. Now a mainstay in the lineup of the New York Islanders, he got his first professional experience with the Monarchs during the 2006-07 season. Skating in a team-leading 77 games during his rookie season, the winger went on to post three consecutive 20-plus goal seasons and recorded over 50 points in two of those seasons.
Moulson also holds several other distinctions in the Monarchs record books, including the most power play goals (36) in franchise history and placing second in Manchester’s history books with 74 career AHL goals. Playing in his first full NHL season with the Islanders last year, Moulson recorded a team-high 30 goals. He has followed up his strong rookie performance with an excellent sophomore season as he’s currently tied with his previous stats of 30 goals and 18 assists for 48 points.
Despite all of the fame and fortune that comes with playing in the National Hockey League, he fondly looks back at his time spent in Manchester.
“I think my fondest memory with the Monarchs is when we won our first playoff series as an organization [during the 2006-07 postseason],” explained Moulson. “Manchester had never won and we were matched up against a tough Worcester team.
“We won the first three games of the series and then lost the next two. Game Six was in Worcester and it went into double overtime. We scored and a sigh of relief came from everyone,” said Moulson of Manchester’s Cinderella run through the 2007 playoffs, which saw the Monarchs reach the Eastern Conference finals.
“It was exciting to be a part of that. That same season, we won 12 games in a row (including 19 out of 21 games) after a tough start. It was my rookie year and it was special to be part of that team,” said Moulson.
Not only do his memories include on the ice feats, but he also remembers those off the ice who have helped him along the way.
“Off the ice, I will always remember the people within the organization,” said a reflective Moulson. “They were all great and it was an honor to be part of that group for the greater part of three years.”
Monarchs players may move on to have successful careers with other teams or hang up their skates to pursue a career off the ice, but their time in Manchester will always be in their hearts.