ECHL Playoffs: Rally lifts S.C. over Monarchs and into 3-2 series lead
By ALEX HALL New Hampshire Union Leader
An official signals no goal after an apparent first-period score by the Manchester Monarchs during Saturday's Game 5 of the ECHL Eastern Conference Finals against the South Carolina Stingrays, (BRUCE TAYLOR/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER - Game 5 of the ECHL Eastern Conference Finals proved to be a microcosm of the series. The Manchester Monarchs built an early advantage only to see the South Carolina Stingrays roar back and take the lead.
South Carolina scored three goals in the third period to earn a 3-1 comeback victory over Manchester with a crowd of 2,661 in attendance for Game 5 Saturday night at SNHU Arena.
Saturday's triumph marked the Stingrays' third straight and gave them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is scheduled for Monday night at 7 in Manchester.
Steven McParland had a hand in both the game-tying and game-winning goals for South Carolina. The Providence College product scored from the high slot 4:19 into the final period to tie the game at 1-1 and assisted on Olivier Archambault's go-ahead power-play goal at the 6:37 mark.
Stingrays forward Kelly Zajac went forehand-to-backhand before depositing the puck by Monarchs goaltender Sam Brittain (26 saves) with 3:23 left to cap the game's scoring.
"I'd obviously like to see us get a few more pucks on net but ultimately it comes down to putting it in the back and we had plenty of opportunities to do that these last two games and we didn't," Monarchs coach Rich Seeley said. "They've had a few opportunities and they've put it there. That's been the difference."
After going 0-for-7 on the power play in Game 4, the Monarchs' lone tally Saturday came on the man advantage. Matt Leitner redirected a blast from Colton Saucerman on Manchester's third power play 11:16 into the contest to open the game's scoring.
Stingrays netminder Parker Milner, a Boston College product, shut out Manchester the rest of the way, making 19 saves to earn his 11th win of the playoffs.
Like Milner, South Carolina's penalty-kill unit hunkered down after giving up Leitner's goal. The Stingrays went 5-for-6 on the penalty kill over the first two periods and 6-for-7 overall.
Saucerman and Seeley both felt Manchester left power-play goals on the table, specifically during a 23-second 5-on-3 advantage late in the second frame.
"I think you've got to score on that," Saucerman said of the 5-on-3. "That's a chance we needed to bury on and I think we need more traffic in front. (Milner is) a good goalie over there. He's going to stop what he sees. I think we've got to get more pucks to the net and get more bodies in front of him."
Saucerman, who played at Northeastern University in college, said the Monarchs will try to use their home-ice advantage Monday to regain momentum in the series.
"The luxury is it's (at) our barn," Saucerman said. "It's seven-game series for a reason. It's not over tonight. We've got another game and they're going to have to have their best if they want to beat us in Game 6. And we're definitely going to come out with our best."