Eastern: Rats sweep Pens, Monarchs up 3-0

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Behind yet another big third period, Albany rallied for a 5-3 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton that gave the River Rats a sweep of their Atlantic Division semifinal and a ticket to the second round for the first time since 1998.

Albany scored eight of its 14 goals this series in the third period, and the final frame produced the game-winning goal in all four contests.

The game was tied at 2-2 early in the third period before Nick Johnson put the Penguins on top with his fourth goal of the series.

But Rats forward Jerome Samson responded only 1:21 later, and rookie Zach Boychuk played the role of hero when his unassisted tally at 12:12 put Albany on top to stay.

Rookie defenseman Jamie McBain, who also registered a second-period goal for the River Rats, iced the victory with an empty-netter in the closing seconds.

Oskar Osala rounded out Albany’s offense, and goaltender Justin Peters turned aside 26 of 29 shots between the pipes.

The River Rats advance in the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since making it all the way to the conference finals in 1998. In the meantime, Albany suffered first-round exits in 1999, 2000, 2007, and 2008, and missed the playoffs every other year.

The first team this spring to close out its first-round series, Albany will meet either Hershey or Bridgeport in the East Division Finals. The Bears lead their series against the Sound Tigers, three games to one.

Manchester forward Bud Holloway scored exactly two minutes into overtime, sending his club to a 2-1 win over Portland at the Verizon Wireless Arena and a commanding 3-0 series lead in the teams’ Atlantic Division semifinal.

The third-seeded Monarchs will look to complete a sweep of the second-seeded Pirates when they host Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Holloway, who was assisted on the game-winner by Dwight King and Justin Azevedo, has netted the decisive goal in each game of the series after tying for the team lead with five game-winners during the regular season.

Marc-Andre Cliche put Manchester on top just 35 seconds after the opening face-off, but defenseman Mike Weber came back to tie it for the Pirates 7:43 into the second frame. It remained a 1-1 deadlock until Holloway’s goal in the first extra session.

Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier moved to 3-0 this postseason with 37 saves on 38 shots in net, while Pirates counterpart J.P. Lamoureux made 23 saves in the losing effort.

Portland has now dropped seven straight playoff games since beginning the 2009 postseason with a 3-0 win at Providence.