It's not very common for a championship season to be tabbed 'bittersweet'.
The 2014-’15 season was a very memorable one for the Manchester Monarchs, even if it brought upon some heartache to their faithful fans in New Hampshire who were watching their hometown club play their 14th and final season in the American Hockey League.
The Granite State's pride of pro hockey certainly went out on a high-note, though.
At regular season’s end, the Monarchs finished with a 50-17-6-3 record, good for 109 points – the best mark in the league. Forward Brian O’Neill was named the AHL’s MVP, leading the league with 80 points (22G, 58A).
In the organizations' 13th postseason appearance in 14 years, they matched up against Division rival Portland Pirates in a first round best-of-five game series. The series went the distance, the Monarchs winning the decisive Game 5 by a score of 5-3 to advance to the second round.
Advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the Monarchs were set to take on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Manchester made short work of the best-of-seven series by winning in five games - their high-octane offense powering it's way past the AHL's top goaltender Matt Murray.
The Monarchs then found themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals for just the third time in franchise history, and swept through the Hartford Wolf Pack – winning four straight games to advance to the Calder Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.
Manchester’s final challenge were the Utica Comets, and the Monarchs took the wind out of the Western Conference Champion's sails with a pair of OT victories on home ice at the Verizon Wireless Arena to take a 2-0 series lead.
Michael Mersch netted the game-winner in Game 1…
Nic Dowd in Game 2…
In Game 3, the Monarchs fell to the Comets 3-2 in Utica, but it would be their only loss of the series. After winning Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead in the final, Manchester clinched the series – and the organization’s first-ever Calder Cup Championship in Game 5 with a 2-1 victory.
The Monarchs' Calder Cup Championship came exactly one year to the day when the Kings clinched their second Stanley Cup Championship against the New York Rangers at STAPLES Center on June 13, 2014.
With the Monarchs swapping league-rights with the Ontario Reign to start the 2015-'16 campaign, many of the players who brought a Calder Cup Championship to Manchester, New Hampshire, will be playing just outside of Los Angeles in the Inland Empire for the Reign as the organization's tenure as an American Hockey League club kicks off.
Since the 2001-'02 season, the Monarchs have represented the Kings as their primary minor league affiliate. Manchester will continue to live on in the Kings' system, though as the new ECHL affiliate.
Whatever sadness that was brought upon by the American Hockey League's exit from the Granite State, was subdued - at least for a moment, when they brought home the Calder Cup in what was their final opportunity to do so.
Call it making the best out of a rather deflating situation for the Monarchs' faithful.
Call it a much deserved, magical so-long to a city that has developed some of the Kings' top prospects for the past 14 years.
As Monarchs' broadcaster Ken Cail said through a choked up voice, "If you wrote this story, nobody would believe it."
Like all good things, they must come to an end eventually.
For the Monarchs, though, they made the ending one that the city of Manchester, and the Kings' organization, will remember forever.