The game was a bit too tight for comfort as the Manchester Monarchs jumped out to an early 3-0 lead only to see it evaporate by the end of the second period. The game was not without its trials and tribulations -- then again, it is a playoff game with both teams fighting to get to the next round.
Jean-Francois Berube had an awful stretch which nearly cost the team their semi-final berth, though he eventually turned it around. More on that later, though.
In the first period, the Monarchs had a ton of jump. They were flying all the over the ice and it wasn't long before they were rewarded with their first goal. Michael Mersch was rewarded 1:42 into the game when he crashed the net. Jeff Schultz dumped the puck in and Sean Backman was excellent along on the boards (very Justin Williams style) to set up Mersch in front.
Just when it seemed like the Monarchs would take their 1-0 lead into the locker room, Louis Domingue handed the Monarchs a gift by pulling a Jonathan Quick. Andrew Crescenzi stripped Domingue of the puck behind his own net, who was unable to handle it cleanly, and set up Ryan Horvat to shoot into the empty cage. The Monarchs' fourth line came up huge at a time when they really needed their depth players to step up.
In the second period, Henrik Samuelsson hit Brian O'Neill from behind and targeted his head. It was a dirty, disgusting hit that earned Samuelsson a five minute major. I'm not sure how a major penalty that doesn't warrant an automatic game suspension since that's how it works in the NHL (and IIHF competition), but oh well.
Jordan Weal scored two minutes into the ensuing power play but Monarchs had trouble entering and setting up in the zone after that.
The Monarchs got into a bit of penalty trouble in the second half of period and allowed two PPGs. I don't really blame Berube since there was a bit of a weird bounce and full credit to the Pirates for finding a way to make it work. Interestingly enough, the Pirates didn't register their first SOG (in the period) until 9 minutes in on the power player. That was shortly before Portland scored because, of course.
Manchester had just finished killing off a penalty when they were called for a controversial one. The Monarchs radio feed insisted that O'Neill had been pushed to Domingue, who had left his net to play the puck. I'll let you decide.
The goal Portland scored was a little shaky, IMO. On the penalty kill, Monarchs allowed a zone entry and a long shot from center Tyler Gaudet. Berube made the initial save but couldn't control the rebound and was beat when he came out to cut down the angle. So, it's not AWFUL, but I do think he is partly to blame there.
Pirates tied the game with half a second left in the second period and it was a really bad, completely inexcusable goal to give up. Brendan Perlini shot the puck from the boards and it just squeaked under Berube. It was really a dagger to the Monarchs and seemed to swing the game in Portland's favor.
However, now that I think about it, it wasn't as bad as it probably could've been. The goal came at the end of the period and while it was a tough one to allow, the Monarchs had 18 minutes to sit in the room, collect themselves and re-group. It also gave Head Coach Mike Stothers an opportunity to help his young team focus on the last 20 minutes.
Whatever was said between periods worked. The Monarchs came out flying in the third period.
Mersch broke the deadlock 1:16 in and Adrian Kempe scored his first AHL goal 20 seconds later.
Stick tap to Chanelle Berlin of Thx Bud for making these GIFs.
There were a few scary moments when Portland had good pressure, but Berube stood tall. Vincent LoVerde took a tripping penalty at 18:03 but the 6 on 4 with the goalie pulled allowed Manchester free shots at the empty net with no concern of icing. They had a few good looks and Mersch was thisclose to getting a hat trick, but unfortunately they're part of the Kings' system so that automatically means they have trouble hitting it.
Postgame, Stothers told Andy Tonge of Mayor's Manor that he never considered replacing Berube.
"Is there anybody in this league that has more than 37 wins? The answer to that would be a resounding no."
Despite allowing several weak shots from the slot, Stothers has shown ultimate faith in Berube and was rewarded for his unwavering trust in the young netminder.
Michael Mersch and Sean Backman were the two MVPs of the series. They were absolutely dominant in all five games and carried the play most nights. They were on separate lines until Saturday's game when Stothers decided to load up his top six to get the best production out of everyone.
Mersch's mom promised his sister a dog if he scored a hat trick. So he had a simple request from his followers.
Personally, I think he shouldn't copy his namesake and he should copy a certain Slovenian instead.
Aside from Game 2 when he had three assists, Nick Shore has been rather absent this series. He only has 9 SOG through 5 games, three more than defenseman Vincent LoVerde. The Monarchs are going to need him to find his game soon if they hope to win the Calder Cup.
I didn't think the Monarchs' PK was bad, even though it did allow two goals. Overall, it was pretty good and fairly aggressive. Sometimes things happen, like funny bounces or weak goals, but in general, I liked what I saw from it.
|DATE||VISITOR||HOME||TIME (ET)||GAME RESULTS||TICKETS|
|Saturday May. 2, 2015||Pirates||Monarchs||7:00 PM||Pirates (3) - Monarchs (5)|
|Wednesday May. 6, 2015||Penguins||Monarchs||7:00 PM||BUY|
|Thursday May. 7, 2015||Penguins||Monarchs||7:00 PM||BUY|
|Saturday May. 9, 2015||Monarchs||Penguins||7:05 PM|
|Monday May. 11, 2015||Monarchs||Penguins||7:05 PM|
|Tuesday May. 12, 2015||Monarchs||Penguins||7:05 PM|
|Friday May. 15, 2015||Penguins||Monarchs||7:00 PM||BUY|
|Saturday May. 16, 2015||Penguins||Monarchs||7:00 PM||BUY|
The rest of the series will be best of seven and will be played in a 2-3-2 format (as opposed to the 2-2-1-1-1 format the NHL utilizes).
The WBS Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) will present a far tougher opponent than the Pirates. Monarchs will do well to be disciplined and hopefully get their power play going.