The Manchester Monarchs completed the four-game sweep of the Hartford Wolf Pack to advance to their first-ever Calder Cup Finals appearance. Several Los Angeles Kings prospects are getting experience as well as exposure, but none more than rookie forward Michael Mersch, a former University of Wisconsin standout who has burst onto the scene down the stretch and in the postseason for the Kings’ AHL affiliate.
Mersch credits his quick transition to the pro game to his four years at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a two-time 20-goal scorer and near point-per-game player in his final two years of college hockey, first in the old WCHA, then in the newly-formed Big Ten hockey conference.
“I learned a lot of great things at Wisconsin,” Mersch said after the Monarchs’ series-clinching win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the second round. “ I had good coaches there. Mike Eaves, John Hynes (current AHL Penguins head coach) was an assistant. Good system coaches, great teammates and the four years there I developed and worked on my skating, my strength and conditioning – all that little stuff that corresponds to the game.”
The offensive success didn’t come right away for Mersch, who had just 11 goals in his first 50 AHL games with Manchester this season. One of his teammates, linemate Jordan Weal, noticed Mersch’s troubles early on and noticed a change toward the midway point of the season.
“He was having a tough time at the beginning but then about Christmas time you just saw the confidence in his game explode out,” Weal said of Mersch. “He was a completely different player. He was making tons of plays coming out of the zone and that’s all you can ask for from a big guy like that – to make plays coming out of the zone and get to net offensively.”
Mersch has been on a serious tear since late March, recording 11 goals in his final 15 regular season games. In the postseason – where goals are often harder to come by – Mersch has taken his game to another level. After tallying 11 points (6G-5A) in his first nine Calder Cup Playoffs games, Mersch opened the Eastern Conference finals against the Hartford Wolf Pack with two goals in Game One and followed that up with a three-goal performance in Game Two.
“It’s hard work. We have a hard-working group,” Mersch said of his team’s and his own personal success, adding, “When we are all working together and supporting each other on the ice, a lot of good things are happening. I’m playing with some great players. It seems like everyone has been stepping up. When the team is playing good like we are, then a lot of guys are going to have individual success.”
“The progression he made this year, it’s unbelievable,” Weal said of Mersch in his rookie season. “He’s doing that to a tee and it shows in his stats because he’s putting up goals and points. We can’t ask for much more from a rookie than that.”
“It’s great. The more you play the better you’re going to get. You learn to play in these important games too,” Mersch mentioned, adding, “When you get trust from the coaches and you’re winning games a lot, it’s something special. You look to carry that over into every game and hopefully it transfers into next season as well.”
Follow Tony Androckitis on Twitter via @