The Los Angeles Kings won their final game of the regular season on Saturday, but the rest of the weekend's organizational news wasn't so great. To refresh your memory: the seventh-seeded Manchester Monarchs qualified for the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs and kicked off their first-round series against the Springfield Falcons on Saturday, while the second-seeded Ontario Reign are currently battling the Idaho Steelheads in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs in the ECHL.
Manchester Monarchs: L on Saturday, L on Sunday (down 2-0 in best-of-5 series)
There is no rougher way to start a playoff series than to lose the first two games in overtime. (Just ask the New Jersey Devils.) Unfortunately, the Monarchs did just that this weekend. Credit to the boys for putting a huge scare into the Northeast division champs on the road, but in the end, it means that our AHL affiliate now needs three consecutive wins to advance to the second round.
A controversial penalty shot call helped Springfield grab the lead in the second period of Game 1. Falcons defenseman Blake Parlett bolted from the penalty box and immediately received a lead pass for a breakaway, and the Monarchs' Vincent LoVerde was the only one who had a shot at catching Parlett. LoVerde opted against diving for the puck and instead lightly brushed Parlett with his stick; somehow, this was deemed worthy of a penalty shot after Martin Jones made the stop. (The pivotal play occurs at 2:15 of the above highlight video, and the call is, unfortunately, brutal.) Parlett made no mistake on the ensuing penalty shot, switching to the backhand and beating Jones above the blocker. Curtis McIlhinney played well in goal for Springfield, but allowed the tying goal with 8:49 remaining; Nick Deslauriers took a point shot which deflected off of Brian O'Neill's skate, and the Yale alum got credit for the game-tying goal when it skipped past McIlhinney. The Falcons rebounded by outshooting the Monarchs 6-2 in overtime, and they got the game-winner 10:36 in when Cody Bass tipped in a pass from Ryan Russell. Jones made 33 saves, but in the end, it wasn't enough.
Game 2 was a very winnable game for Manchester, but the Monarchs were foiled by a rash of penalties and some big-time goaltending from McIlhinney. The Monarchs found themselves in an early hole after allowing a shorthanded tally; Brandon Kozun's pass was intercepted, and Ryan Russell's chip along the boards got past Linden Vey and gave Trent Vogelhuber a breakaway. Vogelhuber's goal gave Springfield an early lead, but Nick Deslauriers scored the equalizer on a nice play five minutes later. On the power play, he carried the puck to center ice, passed to Andy Andreoff, took a return feed past the blue line, and beat McIlhinney on a backhander five-hole. The Monarchs took their first lead of the series in the second, as Anthony Stewart stole the puck behind the net and chipped in a shot from a tough angle past McIlhinney. McIlhinney didn't allow another goal and made 41 saves on the night. Meanwhile, the Falcons tied it on a third-period power play, which was nothing new; after two early Springfield penalties, the Monarchs would only get one more power play while the Falcons would get EIGHT. Coach Mark Morris would later comment that "The ice was tilted towards the penalty box," which seems a fair assessment. Anyway, David Savard tied it with 13 minutes left on a long slapshot after a David Kolomatis holding penalty, and after a Kolomatis tripping penalty in OT, Cody Bass scored his second OT game-winner in two nights on a rebound past Martin Jones (35 saves).
Ontario Reign: L on Friday, L on Sunday (down 3-2 in best-of-7 series)
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to skip over detailed analysis of Game 4, which was won 6-0 by the Steelheads. Let's just say it was ugly and move on. JF Berube rebounded with a strong performance in Game 5 after getting yanked after 40 minutes in Game 4. The Reign scored early through Kevin Estrada, who converted his own rebound after Brady Calla picked off an attempted clear by Idaho's goaltender. But the Steelheads tied it in the second via Adrian Foster, who beat JF Berube on a rebound. A scoreless (but apparently tense) third period followed, and though Ontario got 8 of the 12 total shots in OT, it was Idaho who scored to take a 3-2 lead in the series. Chase Schaber received a pass in the slot and beat Berube at the 9:36 mark, putting Ontario in a must-win situation for tomorrow's Game 6.
For those of you who live in Southern California: click here to buy tickets to Tuesday’s game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario at 7:00 p.m. If the Reign win, Game 7 will be played in Ontario on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m, and you can buy tickets for that game here. Meanwhile, the Monarchs return to action on Thursday in an elimination Game 3, which you can buy tickets for here; Game 4 would be on Saturday, and you guessed it, tickets are available here. Best of luck to both the Monarchs and the Reign.