Manchester Monarchs Zac Lynch, right, tries for a rebound as South Carolina Stingrays Joey Leach, left, tries to clear the puck in front of Stingrays goalie Parker Milner in the first period of game 6 of the 2017 ECHL Kelly Cup Eastern Conference Finals at SNHU Arena in Manchester Monday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
MANCHESTER — Manchester Monarchs forward Gasper Kopitar said the team had one mission Monday night at SNHU Arena: force a Game 7 in the ECHL Eastern Conference Finals.
The Monarchs fended off elimination by earning a 5-1 triumph over the South Carolina Stingrays with an announced 1,520 in attendance.
Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday night at 7 in Manchester.
The Monarchs received goals from four players and a 38-save performance from goaltender Sam Brittain en route to the win.
“We've been ahead in most games this series. We've been ahead in (almost) all all of our (playoff) series so this was a new battle for us,” Monarchs forward Tyler Sikura said. “We had to play desperate. We had to play a full 60 (minutes) and I think we did that tonight.”
The Monarchs had a 2-0 lead entering the third period and had a 5-0 advantage with 3:04 remaining.
Sikura, a Dartmouth College product, put home a power-play goal with 4:09 left in the opening period to open the game's scoring. Matt Leitner scored his eighth goal of the playoffs with 3:32 left in the second period to double Manchester's lead entering the third frame.
Sikura went top shelf on Stingrays netminder Parker Milner from the high slot to open the game's scoring. Daniel Doremus won a faceoff in the South Carolina zone and dished the puck to Sikura to set up the goal.
The Monarchs were 5-for-31 on the power play in the series entering Game 6.
Leitner scored on a one-timer from the slot off a feed from Zac Lynch. The goal came after Lynch stole the puck in the Stingrays zone and the Monarchs proceeded to test Milner (27 saves) with a flurry of shots.
“We played pretty well in the first two periods and then in the third we kind of smothered them,” said Kopitar, who recorded two assists.
The Monarchs added three goals in the third period to put the game out of reach.
Ashton Rome tallied a rebound goal following a shot from former University of New Hampshire captain Connor Hardowa 8:51 into the third period to make it 3-0 Monarchs. Sikura scored a rebound goal of his own with 4:07 remaining to build a 4-0 Manchester lead. Daniel Ciampini capped the Monarchs' scoring with a one-timer off a feed from Leitner with 3:04 to go.
The Stingrays replaced Milner with Adam Carlson following Ciampini's tally.
South Carolina's Olivier Archambault scored on the power play with 1:21 remaining to break Brittain's shutout.
“I liked the way we played in the third,” Monarchs coach Rich Seeley said. “We played solid. We played sound and obviously they're pressing because we're up two (goals) and we get a couple opportunities to blow it open, which we did.”
South Carolina dominated possession for most of the stanza, outshooting the Monarchs 15-8. Brittain stuffed a breakaway try from Steven McParland and Joe Devin's shot from the doorstep in the second period to keep South Carolina off the scoreboard.
“You don't get this opportunity every day,” Seeley said. “We've worked hard all year and (our) backs are against the wall….This is some of the things you look forward to and why you play the game. I'm glad the guys seized that opportunity tonight.”