The Manchester Monarchs squandered a three-goal lead but bounced back for a 5-3 victory over the Portland Pirates on Saturday night, closing out their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series three games to two.
The Monarchs, top seed in the Eastern Conference, will face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the second round beginning Wednesday night.
Rookie Michael Mersch had two goals and an assist to lead the Monarchs to victory after the Pirates had rallied from 2-0 down in the series and 3-0 down in Game 5.
Mersch tucked home a rebound of a Sean Backman shot for his fourth goal of the series just 1:42 into the contest, giving Manchester the early 1-0 lead.
Jordan Weal extended the lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal at 3:34 of the second period, his fifth goal of the series.
The power-play unit got the Pirates back in the game with a pair of quick goals, as Henrik Samuelsson put Portland on the board at 12:33 and Tyler Gaudet cut the deficit to 3-2 at 16:13. Then Brendan Shinnimin threw the puck on net and beat Jean-Francois Berube with 0.5 seconds remaining in the second to draw Portland back even through 40 minutes.
The Monarchs responded with two goals within the first 1:36 of the third period to grab a 5-3 lead. Mersch gave Manchester the lead back with 18:44 remaining, and Adrian Kempe tallied his first career professional goal just 20 seconds later.
Berube (3-2) made 10 of his 24 saves in the third period to preserve the win.
Domingue (2-2) finished with 33 stops for the Pirates.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals – Series “A” (best-of-5)
1-Manchester Monarchs vs. 8-Portland Pirates
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 23 – MANCHESTER 5, Portland 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 25 – MANCHESTER 6, Portland 2
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 26 – PORTLAND 3, Manchester 2
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 30 – PORTLAND 5, Manchester 0
Game 5 – Sat., May 2 – MANCHESTER 5, Portland 3