Manchester, NH, May 23, 2015 – Michael Mersch scored a hat trick, and Sean Backman had two goals and an assist, for the Manchester Monarchs Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Arena, in a 7-4 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack in Game Two of the teams’ best-of-seven, Eastern Conference Final series.
Manchester now leads the series two games to none.
Oscar Lindberg had four points in the game for the Wolf Pack, with a goal and three assists, and Carl Klingberg scored twice. Brian O’Neill added a goal and two assists for the Monarchs, and Nic Dowd had a goal and an assist.
The Wolf Pack fell behind 2-0 in a first period in which they were outshot 13-3.
The two Monarch goals came in a span of 2:48, starting at the 8:37 mark, when Backman scored his second of the postseason. Dowd had a close-range shot stopped and then put the rebound off the goal post to the left of Hartford goaltender Yann Danis. After that, though, Backman was able to jump on the loose puck and snap it in.
Manchester made it a 2-0 advantage at 11:25, on Mersch’s first of three on the night. O’Neill stickhandled down the slot and fired a shot that Danis stopped, but Mersch knifed the rebound past Danis from right on top of the Wolf Pack goaltender.
That was followed by a wild second period, in which the Wolf Pack would break back with three goals, only to see the Monarchs respond with three of their own.
Lindberg cut Manchester’s lead to 2-1 with his second goal of the series at 4:16 of the second. A Brady Skjei pass sent Lindberg up the middle in the Monarch zone, and Lindberg fought off Vincent LoVerde and ripped a forehand shot past the stick side of Manchester goaltender J-F Berube (14 saves).
Klingberg tied the score for Hartford 1:43 later, at 5:59, flipping the puck past Berube’s catching glove, after Ryan Haggerty passed across the slot from the right-wing side.
Joey Crabb then gave the Wolf Pack a short-lived lead on the Wolf Pack’s first power-play of the game, with Jordan Weal off for holding. Chris Bourque played the puck off the right-wing boards and Lindberg deflected it off the goal post to Berube’s left. Crabb got to the loose puck in the goal crease and knocked it in at 12:00.
The Monarchs recovered quickly after that, though, tying the game back up at 15:50 with their first power-play goal of the series. With Tommy Hughes in the penalty box for hooking, Mersch connected for his second goal of the game and fourth of the series at 15:50, poking a loose puck between Danis’ left skate and the goal post.
Manchester then stunned the Wolf Pack with two goals inside the final 50 seconds of the period. O’Neill put the Monarchs back in the lead with 49.7 seconds left, set up alone at the right side of the slot by a pass from Nick Shore, who worked the puck away from Mat Bodie.
Then, with 8.7 seconds showing on the clock, Backman made it a two-goal Monarch lead with his second of the game, deflecting a Colin Miller shot from the right-point past Danis.
The Wolf Pack changed goaltenders for the third period, replacing Danis (five goals-against on 24 shots) with Mackenzie Skapski, but that did not change the momentum.
Dowd upped Manchester’s lead to 6-3 with his second goal of the series at 7:05. Backman, covering the right point after Kevin Gravel had pinched in, had his shot tipped through Skapski’s legs by Dowd.
Mersch then completed his hat trick at 14:13, jumping on a loose puck just below the left-wing faceoff dot and firing it off of Skapski and in.
Klingberg’s second goal of the game, scored with 3:11 left off of a pass from Lindberg, stopped a run of five straight Monarch goals and made the final score 7-4.
The series now switches to the XL Center in Hartford for Games Three and Four, which will be this Tuesday, May 26 and Wednesday, May 27, with 7:00 PM faceoffs both nights.
Wolf Pack playoff tickets are available at the Agera Energy Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499.