The Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, are the first team to advance to the Calder Cup final after completing a sweep of the New York Rangers’ affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack. Manchester was the regular season’s best team, losing only 17 times in regulation, and are heading to the first Calder Cup final in franchise history.
While the NHL post-season is staring down two crucial Game 7s to determine who will play for the Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings’ AHL affiliate Manchester Monarchs simply walked through the Hartford Wolf Pack in four straight games to move on to play for the Calder Cup.
It’s not shocking, however, that the Monarchs are going to play for the league’s top trophy. After all, in the regular season, there was no team better than Manchester, who racked up 109 points for top spot in the AHL and were the only team this season not to lose at least 20 games in regulation.
What’s more impressive is that as the post-season has rolled on, the Monarchs have seemingly gotten stronger. Looking at their journey to the Calder Cup final series-by-series, the truest test they faced was in the first round, best-of-five tilt with the Portland Pirates. It took all five games for the series to be decided and the Monarchs moved on thanks to two early goals in the third period of Game 5.
Following their Round 1 victory, Manchester then rolled through the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, with the Monarchs outscoring their opponents 17-10 over the course of their 4-1 series victory.
Against Hartford, outside of Game 1, the series wasn’t even close. Manchester began with a tight 3-2 victory that was powered by Michael Mersch. Their Game 1 victory was followed by 7-4 and 5-3 drubbings in Games 2 and 3 respectively. In Game 4, the score was tied 1-1 until Adrian Kempe notched the game winner little more than six minutes into the second frame.
Through the AHL post-season, it looks as if the next batch of potential Kings reinforcements are hitting their stride and taking a page out of the big club’s book. Three of the top four scorers in the AHL playoffs are from Manchester, with Jordan Weal leading the way with 10 goals and 19 points in 14 games. Mersch (11 goals, 18 points, tied for second) and Brian O’Neill (nine goals, 17 points, fourth) rank just behind Weal.
The Calder Cup final appearance marks the first time in franchise history the club has advanced to the league final — it may also be their last, as the club is set to relocate to Ontario, Calif., as part of the AHL’s 2015-16 Pacific Division.
Manchester is still waiting to see who their opponent will be in the Calder Cup final as the Western Conference series between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Utica Comets is deadlocked at 1-1.