St. Cloud State alum Nic Dowd is no stranger to theatrics. Last year, during his senior campaign, the forward scored an overtime goal to beat Notre Dame in the NCAA Regional tournament. When the Manchester Monarchs went to overtime for the second straight game in the Calder Cup Finals, they needed someone to step up and be their hero after Michael Mersch filled that role the night before. Like the year prior, Dowd stepped up for his team, as he secured the victory and a 2-0 series lead for his team.
As they have done countless times in the playoffs, the Monarchs were the first ones to find the back of the net, doing so on a powerplay. With time expiring in the first period, Dowd entered the offensive zone and dished off to winger Sean Backman along the right boards. Backman threw a shot/pass into the slot, where Zach O’Brien perfectly redirected the puck top shelf.
Just over a minute into the second, Utica drew even at one. Colin Miller’s attempt to clear the puck up the middle was batted out of the air by Nicklas Jensen, who walked in and scored from the top of the circles.
With no other goals to be accounted for, the two best teams in the AHL needed extra time for the second straight night. There, it was Dowd’s turn to shine. On the forecheck, Dowd won a foot race to get control of the puck, where he took it from below the goal lines and towards the slot. After being stopped on his first chance, the center beat a sprawling Jacob Markstrom, which sent the hometown crowd into an uproar.
Dowd’s goal was spectacular because it perfectly emphasises the type of player he is – a heart-and-soul, energy player. He never quit on the play, as he busted his butt up the ice in pursuit of the puck. From there, he battled in front of the net until he was able to ice the game.
After leaving Game 1 with an injury, Jeff Schultz was once again unable to play for Game 2. In his place, Kevin Raine stepped in, playing limited minutes on the third pair. Andrew Bodnarchuk and Vincent LoVerde saw increased ice time for the second straight night, and once again, the duo was tremendous.
Undoubtedly, this was among the top postseason performances for LA Kings prospect JF Berube, who passed Jonathan Bernier for most playoff appearances in Monarchs history with 20. He made several key saves, with both his pads and his glove, as he backstopped his team to victory. If Berube carries this play on the road, the series likely won’t last much longer.
Nick Shore also had a solid outing, playing great defensive hockey. Meanwhile, his linemate, O’Brien, had yet another stellar offensive game. Once again, O’Brien lead the team in quality scoring chances.
Game 1 saw Mersch take control offensively. The next night, he showed his defensive prowess, making some great plays on the penalty kill to burn precious time off the clock.
The Monarchs are still undefeated on home ice. There is something about this team that makes it near impossible to beat them in Verizon Wireless Arena.
Speaking of Verizon, Sunday was possibly the last game the Monarchs will ever play in the barn, as an AHL team at least. And what a dramatic way to end this journey if this is how it ends in Manchester. For both games so far in the series, the hometown crowd has been tremendous, filling the lower bowl to the brim and making plenty of noise in support of the Monarchs. Saying this, we’d be remiss if we didn’t give a nod to the Utica fans who made the trek down for both games and made their presence felt all weekend.
Next up, the series, and our coverage, shift to Utica for Games 3, 4, and 5. Manchester could close out the series on the road, and they just may with they way they’ve played so far.
Full postgame quotes from players and coach Mike Stothers are down below. Also, the line combinations for Game 2 were as follows:
Michael Mersch – Jordan Weal – Brian O’Neill
Adrian Kempe – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
David Van der Gulik – Nic Dowd – Sean Backman
Paul Bissonnette – Andrew Crescenzi – Justin Auger
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Kevin Gravel – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Kevin Raine
MORE GAME 2 COVERAGE:
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