Things were looking bleak for the Lake Erie Monsters heading into Monday night's Game 6 of their AHL Central Division finals playoff series against the host Grand Rapids Griffins. The Monsters, who jumped out to a 3-0 series lead, had lost two consecutive games, and had looked pretty bad in the process.
Worse yet, Grand Rapids scored twice in the first three minutes of the game to take a 2-0 lead and tighten the noose around Lake Erie's neck.
But the Monsters chipped away, erasing a pair of two-goal deficits, forcing overtime on a Lukas Sedlak goal, and then winning the game and the best-of-seven series in one fell swoop on a backhander off the stick of 18-year-old phenom Zach Werenski.
The goal, Werenski's second game-winner of the series, gave him a Monsters team-leading 10 points in the postseason. Seriously, the kid has looked like a veteran almost from the moment he stepped onto the ice after first joining Lake Erie in early April.
With the win, Lake Erie advances to the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. It will take on the defending AHL champion Ontario (Calif.) Reign, who won the Calder Cup last season playing as the Manchester (N.H.) Monarchs. The Monsters and Reign did not play each other this season, and the two franchises haven't faced each other at all since last year, when Lake Erie was the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons.
We'll come back to you later this week with a preview, but briefly, here's the series schedule (all times Eastern):
GAME 1: Saturday, May 21st, at Ontario, 11 p.m.
GAME 2: Sunday, May 22nd, at Ontario, 10 p.m.
GAME 3: Tuesday, May 24th, at Lake Erie, 7 p.m.
GAME 4: Thursday, May 26th, at Lake Erie, 7 p.m.
*GAME 5: Saturday, May 28th, at Lake Erie, Noon
*GAME 6: Tuesday, May 31st, at Ontario, 10 p.m.
*GAME 7: Wednesday, June 1st, at Ontario, 10 p.m.
* - if necessary