Monarchs' Colton Saucerman stops an attack by Reading's Victor Liljegren on their powerplay at the end of the second period at SNHU Arena in Manchester on Friday. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER — It took nearly 100 minutes but the Manchester Monarchs rallied to a 3-2 victory over the Reading Royals in Game 1 of the ECHL North Division Semifinals Friday night at SNHU Arena.
No. 2 seeded Manchester leads the best-of-seven series, 1-0, entering Game 2 tonight at 6 in Manchester.
Monarchs rookie forward Sam Kurker delivered the game-winning goal with 2:22 remaining in the second overtime. The Northeastern University graduate flew down the left side of the ice, received a pass from Rob Hamilton and put the puck past Reading goaltender John Muse.
Both the Monarchs and No. 3 seeded Royals had goals waived off in the first overtime period.
Kevin Morris slipped a rebound goal by Muse (54 saves) with 9:11 left in the first extra frame but his tally came after the referees blew the play dead.
It looked as if former University of New Hampshire captain Matias Cleland had won the game for Reading 3:42 into overtime. Cleland put home a rebound from the left circle but the goal was waved off for incidental contact with Monarchs rookie goaltender Charles Williams (42 saves).
Manchester went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Two of the Monarchs’ kills came in the second overtime period.
Third-period goals from Matt Marcinew and Matt Leitner helped the Monarchs erase a two-goal deficit.
Leitner knotted the score with his goal during four-on-four play 7:52 into the third period. The forward received a cross-ice pass from Alexx Privitera and put a low shot from the bottom of the left circle by Muse.
Marcinew scored 2:32 before Leitner’s when he redirected a Spencer Watson shot to cut seeded Reading’s lead to 2-1.
Manchester (42-25-6) tested Muse often throughout the third period, outshooting the Royals 13-3 in the final frame of regulation.
Chris McCarthy scored a goal and assisted on another in the second period to give the Royals (39-25-9) a 2-0 lead entering the third frame.
McCarthy opened the game’s scoring 8:47 into the second period. The University of Vermont product scored from the crease off a feed from Matt Willows, another former UNH captain.
McCarthy helped double Reading’s advantage when he set up linemate Matt Wilkins for a goal in front with 6:34 remaining in the middle stanza. Cleland helped begin the scoring opportunity with his shot from the left point that led to a rebound for McCarthy.
Manchester outshot the Royals,17-10, in the opening period and 27-21 over the first 40 minutes but could not put one past Muse, a Boston College product.
Kurker had a chance to even the score when he intercepted the puck in the Reading zone with 9:36 left in the second period. Kurker’s shot from the slot was denied by Muse’s pad.
Brian Morgan, a 24-year-old forward from Windham, was one of three players who did not dress for Reading.