Monarchs bounce back, dispatch Pirates

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.

The Monarchs made it 2-0 at 16:34 when Andrew Crescenzi stole the puck from Pirates goaltender Louis Domingue behind the net and found Ryan Horvat, who put home his first playoff goal.

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