Fast Starts Help Manchester Advance to AHL Eastern Conference Finals

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Manchester eliminates W-B/Scranton in five games with 2-1 win tonight.
The Manchester Monarchs' fast starts in this postseason have helped them to the Eastern Conference finals after an another early goal - 2:01 into the first period tonight in Game Five - propelled the Los Angeles Kings affiliate to a series clinching 2-1 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the second round.

While the Monarchs' top line was held in check, their depth as a team showed as the second and third lines cashed in for back-to-back goals in the opening period for a lead they would never look back on.

Conor Sheary got the Penguins on the board with 1:17 left in the second period - making it a one-goal game heading to the third - but despite several flurries of pressure in the final frame the Penguins were unable to force a Game Six in Manchester this weekend.

A tough finish for Matt Murray after a tremendous rookie season, who was pulled 14:57 into the game after allowing two goals on six shots. Jeff Zatkoff stopped all 22 shots he faced in relief to keep the Penguins in it, but it wasn't meant to be for the Penguins in their 16th season as an AHL franchise.

The Monarchs will face the winner of the other Eastern Conference Semifinals series between the Hershey Bears and Hartford WolfPack, with the top-seeded Monarchs guaranteed home-ice advantage in the next round.

Thoughts from Monarchs head coach Mike Stothers and forwards Brian O'Neill and Michael Mersch after the jump.


Coach Mike Stothers on his team:
I've been happy with our team all year long. A pretty resilient bunch, they work hard, they play the game hard and honest. As a coach that's all you can ask for.
Stothers on success early in games:
If you're asking for me to put a finger on how or why it's happening, I don't know. But I hope it keeps happening. We just play, whether we have the lead or coming from behind we don't change our mindset. We just go out and play - it's pretty simple.
Stothers on goaltender J-F Berube:
He was good. It's a team effort. He's good, the defense is good, the forwards are good. We don't rely on any one person. We rely on the team and you know what, our guys usually provide.
Stothers on getting some days off before conference final:
It's a tough time of year, guys get pretty banged up. You play a hard-working physical team like Wilkes-Barre, you're going to get more bumps and bruises. I guess we'll be able to recover a little bit and watch Hershey and Hartford play it out.
Michael Mersch on making it to 3rd round:
We did the right things, the little details, to help win hockey games. We had to come out here and had to win a few road games and we did, so that gives us a little bit of confidence.
Mersch on the fast starts in this postseason:
We have a lot of guys who can score goals and also play well defensively, so when you're playing the right way it leads to goals.
Brian O'Neill on facing Wilkes-Barre this round:
They have a really good offense, great defense and good goaltending so beating a team like that definitely gives us some confidence going into the conference finals.

The Monarchs got the early jump on the Penguins and for the 7th time in 10 games this postseason, scored in the first three minutes of the contest.

Sean Backman got a puck down low to Adrian Kempe, who transitioned from backhand to forehand as he pulled the puck in front of the net and beat Murray to the short side 2:01 into play to give Monarchs the edge.

The Penguins generated some offensive pressure on their first man advantage of the night midway through the 1st period but were unable to tie things up.

Moments after the power play expired David Van der Gulik let a drop pass to Nick Shore at the top left-wing circle, who used the WBS defender in the slot as a screen and picked a corner on Murray to extend the Monarchs' lead to 2-0 with 5:03 left before the 1st intermission.

That would spell the end for Murray - the Penguins rookie goaltender who was named both AHL rookie of the year and goaltender of the year during the regular season - after surrendering two goals on six shots in 14:57 of work. Jeff Zatkoff came on in relief of Murray, as he did last night in Game Four for the third period of that contest.

The Penguins failed to take advantage of two second period power plays and appeared headed to the third period down 2-0 until an offensive zone face-off win by Andrew Ebbett triggered a late surge or the home team.

Ebbett won the draw back to Brian Dumoulin, who fed Sheary a pass in the high-slot for a shot through traffic that eluded Jean-Francois Berube with 1:17 left before the second intermission - sending the two teams to the third period with a one-goal game.

The WBS top line of Sheary, Ebbett and Kostopoulos had some chances early in the third - their biggest threat coming from a Kostopoulos to Ebbett feed that just missed beating Berube a little over three minutes into the third.

Unfortunately for the home crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Penguins came up short and were unable to find the equalizer as time expired on Game Five and their 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs run.


Matt Murray (4 saves - 6 shots) got the start again in net for Game Five, with Jeff Zatkoff (22 saves - 22 shots) relieving Murray 14:57 into the 1st period, after coming on in relief of Murray for the 3rd period of Monday night's Game Four.

No changes again on defense, with the same six blue liners paired off with their usual partners.

Only one change in personnel up front, with Jean-Sebastien Dea slotting in at the 4th line center position after taking warmups as the 13th forward last night in Game Four. Dea was in for Matia Marcantuoni - a move that on the surface is for more offense.

WBS Scratches: Eric Hartzell, Tristan Jarry, Harrison Ruopp, Sean Escobedo, Alex Boak, Josh Archibald, Matia Marcantuoni, Danny Syvret, Nick D’Agostino, Ryan Parent, Scott Wilson, Adam Payerl, Piere-Luc Leblond, Sahir Gill, Clark Seymour and Oskar Sundqvist.

The lines were all jumbled up a bit:

Conor Sheary - Andrew Ebbett - Tom Kostopoulos
Bryan Rust - Nick Drazenovic - Jayson Megna
Tom Kuhnhackl - Carter Rowney - Dominik Uher
Bobby Farnham - Jean-Sebastien Dea - Kasperi Kapanen

Brian Dumoulin - Taylor Chorney
Scott Harrington - Barry Goers
Reid McNeill - Derrick Pouliot

Matt Murray - Jeff Zatkoff


Jean-Francois Berube (28 saves - 29 shots) got the start in net for the Monarchs again in Game Five, with rookie Patrik Bartosak serving as the backup.

No lineup changes for the Monarchs, who went with the same six defenseman and 12 forwards as they used in Game Four. The line combinations were again rotated around a bit.

MCH Scratches: Stephen Mastalerz, Jonny Brodzinski, Josh Gratton, Paul Bissonnette, Nick Ebert, Scott Sabourin, Kevin Raine and Alex Lintuniemi


Michael Mersch - Jordan Weal - Brian O'Neill
David Van der Gulik - Nick Shore - Justin Auger
Adrian Kempe - Nic Dowd - Sean Bachman
Ryan Horvat - Andrew Crescenzi - Zach O'Brien

Vincent LoVerde - Andrew Bodnarchuk
Jeff Schultz - Colin Miller
Kevin Gravel - Derek Forbort

Jean-Francois Berube - Patrik Bartosak


1st Period

2:01: MCH - Kempe (2) - Bachman
8:26: MCH - (PP) Forbort, minor (slashing)
14:57: MCH - Shore (2) - Van der Gulik

2nd Period

5:58: MCH - (PP) Bachman, minor (holding the stick)
10:02: WBS - (PP) Rowney, minor (cross-checking)
14:42: MCH - (PP) Bachman, minor (slashing)
18:43: WBS - Sheary (5) - Dumoulin, Ebbett

3rd Period

5:36: WBS - (PP) Dea, minor (hooking)


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