Considering the hot goaltending they faced and all of the breaks that seemed to elude them, it's safe to assume the Lake Erie Monsters came away from their two-game weekend series against the Iowa Wild satisfied. The Monsters took three of a possible four points, grabbing a 4-1 win on Friday before falling 1-0 in a tight-checking Saturday evening shootout decision.
Generating offensive opportunities wasn't the problem, as the Monsters outshot the Wild by a combined 81-52 margin on the weekend. Actually putting the puck in the net, however, proved to be a bit more difficult. Of Lake Erie's four goals on Friday, two were of the empty-net variety. On Saturday, the only two pucks that found the back of the net were shootout snipes off the sticks of Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
In fairness, the Monsters hit more than their share of posts and crossbars in the two games, and they also were stymied by two excellent goaltending performances from Iowa's Jeremy Smith and Leland Irving. Irving, a Monsters nemesis in previous years as a member of the Calgary Flames organization, was particularly solid on Saturday.
At the same time, you can't take anything away from the work the Monsters' Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo did in net on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Forsberg was sharp in making 31 saves, while the Wild couldn't solve Korpisalo through three periods and a 3-on-3 overtime session. However, three of Iowa's six skaters in the shootout were able to put pucks past the 21-year-old Finn.
It was quite the weekend for young Kerby Rychel, who got the call to Columbus on Friday, skated with the Jackets in the morning, then got sent back to Cleveland that same afternoon. That night he scored two goals in the Monsters' victory, the first coming at the 7:56 mark of the second period with an assist from T.J. Tynan, and the second an unassisted, game-sealing empty-netter with 15 seconds to play. Rychel also assisted on a third-period goal by Andrew Bodnarchuk that turned out to be the eventual game-winner.
Then, of course, Rychel was called up to the Blue Jackets again after Friday's Lake Erie game because, you know, why not? He was a minus-1 in the Jackets' Saturday loss in Chicago, but he made his presence known in a spirited scrap with Trevor Van Riemsdyk. This is likely not the last time the son of former Anaheim Duck Warren Rychel will make the trip up and down Interstate 71 between Cleveland and C-Bus.
By the way, in case you were wondering, veteran winger Ryan Craig has served as the Monsters' captain through their first three games, while defensemen Jaime Sifers and Bodnarchuk have worn the A's.
Friday's game was the Monsters' home opener and drew a healthy crowd of 12,791. Lake Erie has established a perennial place for itself near the top of the AHL attendance list, though Saturday's crowd was a considerably more pedestrian 6,177.
Lake Erie (1-1-0-1) now heads to Winnipeg for games this Thursday and Saturday against the Manitoba Moose at the MTS Centre.