Monarchs on the verge after Game 4 romp

UTICA, N.Y. ( … The Manchester Monarchs regrouped, and now they’re one win away from the Calder Cup.

Nic Dowd scored twice and Nick Shore tallied a goal and two assists to lead the Monarchs to a 6-3 win over the Utica Comets on Friday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium in Game 4 of the 2015 Calder Cup Finals.

The Monarchs have a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and will have their first chance at securing the American Hockey League’s championship in Game 5, set for Saturday night at the Aud (7 p.m. ET, AHL Live).

Manchester had the early jump in Game 4, peppering Jacob Markstrom with 10 shots in the first 6:30 of the contest, then took advantage of a pair of defensive-zone turnovers to open up a 2-0 lead.

First, Sean Backman stole the puck as Utica tried to clear, skated in alone on Markstrom, deked and scored his fifth goal of the playoffs with 7:15 left in the period.

Just 32 seconds later, Nic Dowd stripped the puck from a pair of Comets and wristed a shot from the left-wing dot that beat Markstrom to give the Monarchs their first two-goal lead of the series. It was the second goal of the series for Dowd.

Utica used its timeout, then got one back 52 seconds later on Frank Corrado’s first goal of the postseason, a blast from the point that found its way through Patrik Bartosak with 5:51 to play in the frame.

The Comets went to work on their first power play of the evening late in the opening period, and Sven Baertschi’s shot from the right circle trickled past Bartosak with 1:06 remaining, tying the game at 2-2.

Shots in the opening period wound up 16-9 in favor of the Monarchs.

Manchester’s special teams took back control of the game early in the second period. First, Colin Miller lasered a shot from the right circle that beat Markstrom to the short side over his glove, a power-play goal that put the Monarchs back in front at 3:08. Miller’s goal was his second of the playoffs, and his first since Game 1 of their second-round series with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Less than five minutes later, on another man advantage, Shore perched himself at the far post and banged home a loose puck after Michael Mersch’s wraparound attempt was pushed through the crease by Brian O’Neill. Shore’s goal, at 7:51, was his fourth of the playoffs.

Manchester then killed off three straight Utica power plays, including 1:17 of five-on-three time, and upped their lead to 5-2 with just 10.3 seconds left in the period when Dowd got behind the Comets defense, picked up a loose puck and fired a shot past Markstrom for his second goal of the night and seventh of the playoffs.

Utica’s best chance to start mounting a comeback came about five minutes into the third period, but a bouncing puck on a goal-mouth scramble was swept out of the crease by the Monarchs’ D.

With 13:33 to go, Adrian Kempe made it 6-2 with a rocket past Markstrom’s glove, ending the All-Star goaltender’s night. It was Kempe’s third goal in the last two games and seventh of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Comets close the scoring with 2:06 left as Will Acton put home the rebound of a long Peter Andersson shot for his first goal of the playoffs.

Bartosak (1-1), making his first career playoff start, stopped 22 of 25 shots and earned the win for Manchester. Markstrom made 27 saves before yielding to Joacim Eriksson, who stopped all five shots he faced in relief.

Manchester finished the night 2-for-6 on the power play, while Utica was 1-for-6.

NOTES: O’Neill, injured early in Game 3, was back in the Monarchs lineup for Game 4… Markstrom had allowed seven goals in 110 shots in the series before surrendering six goals on 33 shots in Game 4… Manchester is 14-0 this postseason when scoring the game’s first goal… The Monarchs are now 4-for-18 on the power play in the series; the Comets are 2-for-14… Kempe scored five goals in 50 games with Modo (SHL) during the regular season… Defenseman Nick Ebert made his playoff debut for Manchester, replacing Kevin Raine in the lineup… It was the Comets’ first regulation loss in their last eight games; they had four wins and three overtime defeats since May 28… Only three teams in AHL history have won a Calder Cup Finals series after trailing 3-1 — the last being the Providence Reds in 1949… The capacity crowd at the Aud (3,835) was the 12th sellout of the playoffs and 39th overall this season for the Comets.

2015 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E1-Manchester Monarchs vs. W1-Utica Comets
Game 1 – Sat., June 6 – MANCHESTER 3, Utica 2 (OT) | Recap/highlights
Game 2 – Sun., June 7 – MANCHESTER 2, Utica 1 (OT) | Recap/highlights
Game 3 – Wed., June 10 – UTICA 3, Manchester 2 | Recap/highlights
Game 4 – Fri., June 12 – Manchester 6, UTICA 3
Game 5 – Sat., June 13 – Manchester at Utica, 7:00
*Game 6 – Tue., June 16 – Utica at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 17 – Utica at Manchester, 7:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern