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Recap, Game 1: Mersch, Weal, O’Neill Keep on Rolling

Goals scored by the Manchester Monarchs in the playoffs: 56

Goals scored by Michael Mersch, Jordan Weal, and Brian O’Neill: 33

At this point, why not just let those three score all the goals? It worked in Game One, as Mersch scored twice and O’Neill chipped in once to lead Manchester to an overtime win in their first Calder Cup Finals game. Just take a peek at the winner:

The Monarchs controlled nearly the entire game in Utica’s end, but after Jacob Markstrom had stopped 34 of 36 shots, Weal decided to use a more direct approach than the territorial one Manchester had employed. Weal started at his own blueline, dashed down the ice, and got the puck to the near post. Though his attempt was denied, Mersch scored on his first whack at the puck, which was crucial, as the net came off its moorings essentially as the puck crossed the goal line. You’re not going to get a definitive look, but you can see the net’s position as the puck hits the back of the net…


And if it is indeed of its moorings, it’s not enough to affect the play.

Of course, it’s easy for us to say this in hindsight, but Manchester probably deserved the benefit of the doubt after doubling up the Comets in shots, right? The only reason Utica even got to overtime was goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who had been superb throughout the playoffs and kept it up in Game 1. He was beaten twice, and both goals generated an immediate response from Utica.

Brian O’Neill kicked off the scoring in the first period, and again, Jordan Weal was the catalyst as he got the puck to the front of the net. It wasn’t a rush, though; after Manchester worked the puck free along the boards, Weal stickhandled and toe-dragged his way to the slot. His shot didn’t get through to Markstrom, but O’Neill pounced once he had the puck. However, Justin Auger (who spent most of the game hitting everything that moved) went one step too far and ran over Markstrom shortly after the Monarchs’ goal. Within 13 seconds, Sven Baertschi had equalized on a quick passing play.

Baertschi would leave the game in the second period, a rather big blow to Utica’s offense, which doesn’t quite have the potency of the Manchester attack. Manchester, on the other hand, had lost Jeff Schultz right before that Baertschi goal, and had to play the rest of the game short a defenseman. The Monarchs still only allowed 17 shots in spite of that absence, and they were unlucky to be tied after a dominant second period in which JF Berube only had to stop three shots. (In fairness to him, two of them were really good stops.)

They finally capitalized on a third period power play; like the Comets, Manchester used a neat passing play to convert their man advantage, with Nick Shore finding Mersch. Berube gave up a bit of a softy three minutes later on a soft shot from Cory Conacher, though, and things were tense all the way to the end. After the Monarchs survived a late delay of game penalty to Colin Miller, though, it was just a matter of time until their top line grabbed a 1-0 series lead.