Monarchs take 2-0 series lead
MANCHESTER, NH – Michael Mersch recorded the fourth hat trick in Monarchs playoff history, leading Manchester to a 7-4 win in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against Hartford on Saturday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
“What can you say [about Mersch]?” Head Coach Mike Stothers said. “He’s a young kid. He’s playing huge and I think it’s good we’re getting a chance to see him now, because if he keeps playing like that he’s going to be playing in the show.”
For Mersch, it gave him five goals over his last two games after scoring twice in Game 1. It was his fourth multi-goal game of this postseason.
Sean Backman had two goals and added an assist for the first multi-goal playoff game of his AHL career.
The Monarchs opened the scoring at 8:37 in the first period when Backman wristed his first goal of the night past Yann Danis high glove side.
Mersch extended the lead to 2-0 with his ninth goal of the playoffs. He tipped in a rebound from Brian O’Neill’s shot at 11:25 in the first.
Hartford bounced back at 4:16 in the second period when Oscar Lindberg skated in from the blueline and beat J.F. Berube high stick side.
Carl Klingberg evened the game for Hartford off a feed from Ryan Haggerty at 5:59 in the second.
Hartford took a 3-2 lead at 12:00 in the second on a power play goal. Joey Crabb put in the loose puck after Lindberg hit the post.
Mersch evened the score for the Monarchs with a power play goal at 15:50 when he rebounded off his own shot.
The Monarchs regained a 4-3 lead when O’Neill one-timed a pass from Nick Shore at 19:10 in the second.
Backman continued the scoring 41 seconds later with his second of the night off a tip from Colin Miller’s blast from the point for a 5-3 lead to end the second period.
Nic Dowd gave the Monarchs a 6-3 lead when he tipped in Backman’s shot from the blueline at 7:05 in the third period. It was his second goal in two nights.
Mersch gave the Monarchs a 7-3 lead and tallied the hat trick with a one-timer off O’Neill’s pass at 14:13 in the third period.
Klingberg netted his second of the night with a wrister past Berube at 16:49 in the third to make it 7-4.
The Monarchs will travel to Hartford for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday to face the Wolf Pack at 7 p.m.
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- Mersch’s three points tonight moved him into fourth place on the Monarchs’ all-time list for playoff points with 19 (11 goals, 8 assists). He is two points behind Jordan Weal and Justin Azevedo (21 points) for second place.
- Mersch joined Jordan Weal (May 11 at WBS) as the first pair of Monarchs teammates to each record a hat trick in the same postseason. He is the fourth player in club history to score three goals in one playoff game.
- Manchester improved to 9-0 when scoring first in the playoffs and is 7-0 at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
- Manchester’s top line ofMersch (11 goals, 7 assists), Jordan Weal (10 goals, 8 assists) and Brian O’Neill (7 goals, 8 assists) has combined for 28 Manchester’s 45 goals this postseason (62%).