South Carolina Stingrays forward Domenic Monardo has taken his game to another level in Kelly Cup playoffs

Author: Andrew Miller, postandcourier.com
Date: May 15, 2017

Rob Flick admits he wasn’t a big fan of Domenic Monardo when the two South Carolina Stingray forwards were played against each other in the American Hockey League.

At one point, Flick, who played for the Providence Bruins, challenged Monardo to fight on the ice when he was skating for the Springfield Falcons.

“I can’t even remember what he did to get me going,” Flick said, laughing about the incident during a Stingrays' practice earlier in the week. “I’m sure he was just yapping at me and I’d had enough of that.”

Monardo said one of his Springfield linemates had to step in and protect him from Flick, who is four inches taller and 25 pounds heavier and has a reputation as a skilled fighter.

“Yeah, I knew I was poking at him, but that’s my game,” Monardo said.

The animosity between Flick and Monardo from their days in the AHL has faded with time and now the two Stingray linemates, who are roommates when the team is traveling, are as close as brothers. 

Flick and Monardo’s relationship on the ice has helped the Stingrays advance to the ECHL’s Eastern Conference finals for a third straight season.

Flick and Monardo lead the Stingrays in scoring during the postseason with 13 points each. Andrew Cherniwchan is not far behind with nine points on five goals and four assists.

“I think that line has been our best line in the first two series of the playoffs,” said South Carolina coach Ryan Warsofsky. “For the most part, they’ve been really consistent and we’re getting contributions from all three guys. They’ve come up huge for us in both series.”

After struggling offensively early in the season, Monardo has found his scoring touch and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Monardo, who scored 12 goals in 43 games during the regular season, has recorded at least one point in 10 of the Stingrays’ 11 playoff games. He scored two goals in Game 1 against Florida in the South Division finals, including the game-winner in double-overtime.

“Domenic has taken his game to another level,” Warsofsky said. “He struggled early in the season finding his role and making the transition from the American League back to the ECHL. Once he settled in and started to focus, he started to play at an extremely high level. You can see the confidence and swagger he’s playing with now in the playoffs.”

After scoring 27 goals during his rookie season in the ECHL with the Reading Royals three years ago, Monardo spent most of the past two seasons in the AHL with Springfield. Since the end of the 2013-14 season, Monardo had played in just three ECHL games. When he signed with Hershey last summer, he figured he’d seen the last of the ECHL.

“As a player, you want to play at the highest level,” Monardo said. “My dream is to play in the NHL and the AHL is the next step for me. When I got sent down, I probably tried to do too much to prove I belonged in the AHL. I was looking to put up points and move back up. I wasn’t doing the things I needed to do to improve my game.”

Monardo bounced back-and-forth between Hershey and the Lowcountry during the first three months of the season. He played in 11 games with Hershey, the Stingrays’ AHL affiliate, and thrived as a fourth-line energy player.

Once it became clear that he was going to be with the Stingrays for the duration of the season, Monardo buckled down and got to work.

“There is a transition between the two leagues,” Monardo said. “It’s a different style, it’s a lot more structured in the American League. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to be here, I did. It just took me a little while to find my role on this team. Having guys like Rob and Andrew on my line has been great. Those guys are so easy to play with and they want to win as badly as I do.”

Monardo and Flick have played together most of the season, and when Cherniwchan was added to the mix the trio began to flourish. All three players have spent the majority of their careers in the AHL.

“I think they complement each other really well,” Warsofsky said. “Flick is big, he can hold onto pucks and he creates space for everyone else. Andrew plays the 200-foot game, he’s really responsible and he sees the ice really well and he can skate. And Domenic has the skill and he can see the ice really well.”

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