The Manchester Monarchs hosted the Springfield Falcons on Saturday night for Game 4 of their playoff series. With the win on Thursday, the Monarchs had forced the game in the best-of-5 series. If the Monarchs could manage another home win, they would send the series back to Springfield for a 5th and final game to decide who moved onto the second round of the playoffs. With so much on the line, the game was understandably a little rough. There was also a lot of energy between the two teams.
“We knew it was going to be a grind,” Head Coach Brad Larsen said of the series with the Monarchs. “They played really good hockey to get into the playoffs. They had to fight.”
It was the Falcons who struck first and they did not waste any time getting things going. Just under two minutes into the 1st period, Cody Bass fed the puck to Blake Parlett. The defenseman put the puck in the net high on the glove side of Monarchs goaltender, Martin Jones. It was the second goal of the playoffs for Parlett with Bass and Andrew Joudrey earning the assists. But the Falcons would run into what could have been trouble after that first goal.
Later in the 1st period, rookie Jordan Weal of the Monarchs managed to get the puck on a breakaway. At the last minute, he passed across to Colton Yellow Horn who beat Curtis McElhinney easily on the stick side. Weal and Tanner Pearson earned the assists. Just under two minutes later, the Monarchs took the lead. Andy Andreoff took off but dropped the puck between his legs in a beautiful pass to Linden Vey. Vey was then able to pick the puck and put it into the net over McElhinney’s shoulder.
The 2nd period started with the Monarchs still up 2-1 and they would add to that lead. Once again, Linden Vey would find the net. McElhinney found himself far out of the crease after making a save. The rebound went to Vey who had no trouble putting it in the open net, despite an attempt by a Falcons defenseman to keep it out. The Monarchs fans seemed sure that this was good news for their hopes to stay alive in the playoffs.
“These guys are committed to doing the right things,” Larsen said. “We’ve been in this position a couple times already and we pulled through again tonight.”
But, the Falcons have been a tough team all season and they have thrived in situations where they needed to score big goals. After the halfway mark in the 2nd, Boone Jenner reduced the deficit to 3-2. Monarchs defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk attempted a pass that ended up on the stick of Falcons forward Nick Drazenovic. Drazenovic passed to Jenner, who was able to wrap around and get it past Jones. Then, with about a minute and a half to go in the period, Jones found himself with a lot of traffic in front of his net. Michael Chaput managed to push the puck in at the side of the net and tie up the score going into the 2nd intermission.
Despite a number of good chances, the 3rd period ended with the score still tied 3-3. Both teams kept pressure on the opposing goalies, but this game was going to overtime as two of the previous three had. In those previous two games, the Falcons had come out on top, each time with a goal from Bass. Once again, the Falcons would come out on top but this time it would be Drazenovic that was the hero. It was the first goal for him with the Falcons since March 16th and it could not have come at a better time.
“This one is huge to move onto the next round,” Drazenovic said. “I always tend to pass but I saw the d-man come sliding over and just tried to have a quick shot off. It just so happened to slide through.”
The Falcons win sent them onto the second round of the playoffs and ended the post season run for the Monarchs. It was a hard fought series. Springfield will have to wait to see who wins the series between the Providence Bruins and Hershey Bears before they know who they will square off against next. If the Bruins win, the Falcons take on the Syracuse Crunch. If Hershey wins, that will be the team Springfield plays. Either way, the Falcons are excited to still be alive in post-season action.
Photo Credit: Springfield Falcons