ONTARIO, CA — Los Angeles Kings left wing prospect Michael Mersch scored two goals to lead the Ontario Reign to a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Gulls in Game 1 of their second round American Hockey League playoff series at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario on May 5.
Mersch opened the scoring at 10:26 of the first period, batting the puck past Gulls goalie Matt Hackett from the bottom of the left circle.
Reign defenseman Vincent LoVerde scored on the power play at 14:37 of the first period, converting a back door play off a pass from Kings center prospect Nic Dowd, who was behind the left goal post.
Ontario dominated the first period, but San Diego turned the tables on the Reign in the second, dominating that period as much as Ontario did the first.
The Gulls scored twice early in the second period, within a span of just 2:26, and they continued to dominate. But Kings left wing prospect Joel Lowry scored at the 14:37 mark, to give the Reign a 3-2 lead.
Ontario found its game again in the third period, clamping down on defense. Mersch scored his second goal of the game, the game-winner, at 9:11, deflecting a shot from right point over Hackett and into the net.
“Those were Big Mike type goals,” said Reign head coach Mike Stothers. “He’s parked right in front of the net and he gets a deflection, a tip, he’s got a screen, a net front presence.”
“That’s what Big Mike does,” added Stothers. “It was good for him. He’s been contributing in a lot of ways, but he hasn’t found the back of the net.”
As Stothers alluded to, prior to this game, Mersch had not scored a goal in four playoff games this season. But as it turned out, Mersch’s paternal grandfather knew exactly what to do.
“It’s funny,” said Mersch. “My Grandpa Mersch calls me every Tuesday. He asked me why I wasn’t going to the net as much in the first series [against the San Jose Barracuda]. He was like, ‘did the coach tell you to do that,’ and I was like, ‘no. I should probably go to the net a little bit more.’”
“If my Grandpa is telling me, I probably should do it,” added Mersch. “He watches all of our games and supports our team a lot. That’s really nice of him.”
“Maybe [I was trying] to do too much. Maybe I was [spending too much time in] the gray areas of the ice, which is anywhere besides the front of the net. You make a pass from the corner, cycle, and then, go to the front of the net—forecheck, puck goes back to the defense, you go to the front of the net. It’s stuff like that. Like I said, maybe I was trying to do too much.”
Mersch said that he talks with his grandfather weekly.
“He checks in with me every Tuesday,” Mersch noted. “I think he does it with all my cousins. Sometimes we talk about hockey. Other times, we talk about family. It’s just great talking to him.”
“He’s always come to my games since I was young,” Mersch added. “He loves the game. He watches my brother play on his computer, he watches me play on his computer. It’s great when you have support like that. My other Grandpa is in town today, too. Having that support there is a big thing.”
When told of Mersch’s grandfather’s comments, Stothers smiled.
“His grandfather told him that? Well, let’s fly him in,” he joked. “Put him on the staff! Perfect! Get him a track suit and he can go on the ice tomorrow for practice, and I’ll stay off. Sounds like a plan!”
“He probably skates better than I do, anyway.”
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings left wing prospect Michael Mersch helped lead the AHL’s Ontario Reign to a 5-3 win over the San Diego Gulls in Game 1 of their second round playoff series on May 5, 2016, at Citizens Business >Bank Arena in Ontario, California. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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