The miracle ride for the Manchester Monarchs is over. While the team will still be around as the Kings’ ECHL affiliate, their final season in the AHL has come and gone. After 14 season, royalty reigns in the AHL, as the Manchester Monarchs won the 2015 Calder Cup.
For the third straight game, and sixth straight road game, Adrian Kempe found a way to put the puck in the back of the net. Zach O’Brien forced a turnover in the Comets’ zone, dished to Nick Shore, who put his back to the net and gave a short feed to Kempe, who one-timed the puck home.
Three minutes later, the Monarchs’ lead was pushed to two. After a good keep at the blue line by Andrew Bodnarchuk, Nic Dowd was able to find captain Vincent LoVerde open for a cross-ice feed, and the Miami University alum buried a power play goal.
It appeared as if the visitors would take a three goal lead into the first intermission, after a shot appeared to have hit Michael Mersch in the chest in front of the net and went in, but the refs overruled the goal and the score remained 2-0.
From there, the incredible defensive unit and goalie Patrik Bartosak did the rest of the work, keeping the score at 2-0 until Utica found a way to break through with 14 seconds remaining. The goal was moot, as time wound down shortly after and the Monarchs’ players, coaches, and trainers erupted onto the ice in celebration.
In Game 4, Dowd made an impact with the puck on his stick. The next night, his impact came by giving up the body. During the middle period, Dowd made two huge shot blocks on one shift, while making yet another the next time he touched the ice. A lot of attention has been put on Jordan Weal and Shore as the top two centers, but Dowd’s efforts, like every other player who touched the ice, were instrumental on the Monarchs’ being able to call themselves champions.
Looking at the series from the outside, it would have been easy to sense the series shifting in favor of Utica after JF Berube went down in Game 3. The performance Bartosak put on during Game 5 showed truly how good the goalie is, even if he spent the year as a backup. He sealed the ice well all night with his pads, and his tremendous athleticism allowed him to make massive saves, time and time again.
Speaking of Bodnarchuk and his ability to keep pucks in the offensive zone, he was tremendous all night. Several times, bouncing passes were sent his way at the point, and he was able to keep nearly every one of them in. On top of that, he played great positional hockey, helping anchor down the defensive side of the game.
So much can be said about the individual efforts of every Monarch who found their way into the lineup this post-season, but touching on each one would take forever. And, for the most part, it wouldn’t do justice to the group, for they were not a collection of individuals, but the epitome of a team. Over 20 men came together for a single goal, and acted as one as they walked through the best the AHL had to offer them.
The Monarchs ended their playoffs with an incredible 15-4 record. This includes their opening series, which required all five games, against the Portland Pirates. After that series, against what were supposed to be tougher opponents, the team was a truly incredible 12-2.
While we’re talking about Portland, it is very easy to argue that the Calder Cup was won during that series. After taking a 2-0 series lead, the Monarchs dropped both games in the beautiful city of Portland, as the series shifted back to Manchester all squared up. Adding to the drama, a weak goal made it past Berube as time expired in the second period, tying the contest at 3 and shifting momentum towards the Pirates. Manchester came out and finished their long-time rivals, and no one came close to threatening the Monarchs’ after that.
After beating the Comets in the series 4-1, Weal was named the AHL playoff MVP, rightfully so. So much has been said on this site about Weal and how special he has been. What didn’t get much mention, unless you listened to the MayorsManor podcast breaking down the Calder Cup Finals, was his work-ethic, which like his skill, is tops on the team.
The men behind the bench were fresh faces this year, and what an amazing job they did. Both Mike Stothers and Chris Hajt deserve full credit for taking a team that had question marks at the beginning of the year and turning them into a team that dominated from Game 1 to Game 95. Do not be surprised if you see their names coming up for NHL jobs in a few years.
Alas, it is time to close the book on the Manchester Monarchs as an AHL team. For all the long-time fans, what a treat this season has been. Years of playoff frustration ended, and the last memory for this form of the Monarchs will be seeing the pure elation on every player’s face as they watched LoVerde hoist the Calder Cup over his head.
Lines for Game 5 were as follows:
Michael Mersch – Jordan Weal – Brian O’Neill
Adrian Kempe – Nick Shore – Zach O’Brien
Paul Bissonnette – Nic Dowd – Sean Backman
Josh Gratton – Andrew Crescenzi – Justin Auger
Andrew Bodnarchuk – Vincent LoVerde
Kevin Gravel – Colin Miller
Derek Forbort – Nick Ebert
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