LOS ANGELES – The Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate Manchester Monarchs have advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the Calder Cup Playoffs – which will begin Wednesday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena. Manchester is slated to take on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins – the main minor league affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-seven series.
PIRATES AT BAY
The Monarchs’ defeated the Portland Pirates in the opening round of the postseason, beating the Phoenix Coyotes’ affiliate in a best-of-five series three games to two. Manchester dropped both of their games in Portland, Maine after winning the opening two games of the series at home. In the series’ deciding game, the Monarchs defeated the Pirates 5-3 on home ice to secure the series victory. The Monarchs went 3-0 on home ice at the Verizon Wireless Center in the series; they have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Monarchs had four players record at least five or more points during their series against Portland: Michael Mersch (5G, 3A – 8PTS), Jordan Weal (5G, 2A – 7PTS), Sean Backman (1G, 5A – 6PTS), and Brian O’Neill (3G, 2A – 5PTS).
The Monarchs’ series win snapped a string of five consecutive playoff series losses, dating back to the 2010 Division Finals against the Worcester Sharks. Manchester had been eliminated in the first round the previous four seasons. This was the first time the Monarchs ever won a series-deciding game; they had a franchise mark of 0-3 coming into Game 5 against Portland.
IN NORTH AMERICA
Adrian Kempe, the Kings’ first round draft pick (29th overall) in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, scored his first professional goal on North American soil in the Monarchs’ 5-3 win in Game 5 against Portland. Kempe’s tally came on a well-executed back-door sequence, providing insurance for Manchester in the series’ deciding contest.
THE NEXT STEP
The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins finished the regular season with a 45-24-3-4 record, good for 97 points – positioning them at third in the East Division, and third overall in the Eastern Conference. This is the first ever playoff matchup between these two clubs. Here’s how the Monarchs’ series against the Penguins is slated to look:
EASTERN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS – SERIES
MANCHESTER (3) – VS – WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON (3)
GAME 1 – Wednesday, May 6 – AT MANCHESTER, 7:00PM GAME 2 – Thursday, May 7 – AT MANCHESTER, 7:00PM GAME 3 – Saturday, May 9 – AT WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON, 7:05PM GAME 4 – Monday, May 11 – AT WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON, 7:05PM *GAME 5 – Tuesday, May 12 – AT WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON, 7:05PM *GAME 6 – Friday, May 15 – AT MANCHESTER, 7:00PM *GAME 7 – Saturday, May 16 – AT MANCHESTER, 7:00PM
In four games played against Wilkes-Barre Scranton during the regular season, the Monarchs posted a 3-1-0-0 record, outscoring the Penguins 13-6. The Monarchs won both games played at Wilkes-Barre Scranton’s Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Manchester’s only loss to the Penguins came in a 3-0 defeat in the teams’ final regular season meeting on March 7 at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Wilkes-Barre Scranton goaltender Matt Murray will pose a challenge for the Monarchs, which boasts a high-powered offense. Murray, in 40 regular season games between the pipes for the Penguins, led the league with a 1.58 GAA and a .941 SV%. In the Penguins’ sweep of the Syracuse Crunch in their first round series, Murray stopped 82 of the 85 shots he faced, posting a stellar 1.00 GAA and a .965 SV%. Murray was only in net for one of the Penguins’ games against the Monarchs, leading them to their only win against Manchester all season. Murray stopped all 32 shots he faced in the Penguins’ 3-0 defeat of the Monarchs on March 7.
Jordan Weal averaged more than a point per game against the Penguins this season, registering six points (3G, 3A) in the clubs’ four meetings. Brian O’Neill averaged in with a point per game against Wilkes-Barre Scranton this season, chiming in with four points (2G, 2A).
FINISH IN STYLE
Can the Monarchs make a strong push in their last hurrah as an American Hockey League club in Manchester, New Hampshire? The Monarchs will swap cities and league rights with the Ontario Reign following the campaign. The Monarchs have played in Manchester, New Hampshire at the Verizon Wireless Arena since the start of the 2001-'02 season
FULL HIGHLIGHTS: MANCHESTER (6) VS WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON (3) MARCH 6, 2015