Columbus Assistant General Manager Bill Zito made the trek up to Cleveland last week to check out his team's prospects as Lake Erie took on the Grand Rapids Griffins. In the days that followed, four different Monsters were recalled to Columbus, setting off a chain of lower-tier recalls and player signings in Cleveland.
Still, the result for the Monsters was much the same as it has been for the past several weeks, as the Jackets' AHL affiliate – shuffled roster and all – played three games in less than 72 hours and came away with two victories. The performance was enough to push the Monsters' record to a very respectable 10-4-0-2.
The transaction parade after Zito's visit went something like this:
- WEDNESDAY: The Blue Jackets recalled Josh Anderson and Michael Chaput (Lake Erie's leading goal scorer). To fill one of the roster spots, the Monsters promoted rookie Seth Ambroz from Cincinnati of the East Coast Hockey League.
- FRIDAY: Chaput was sent back to Lake Erie. Meanwhile, the Monsters signed forwards Derek DeBlois (ECHL South Carolina) and Vinny Saponari (ECHL Greenville). I should point out here that Greenville's nickname is the Swamp Rabbits. I will also suggest that you remember DeBlois' name, because you're going to see it a few more times below.
- SATURDAY: Columbus promoted Monsters alternate captain Andrew Bodnarchuk, which was nice to see. Bodnarchuk works hard, and it was difficult to tell whether the Blue Jackets considered him a "Lake Erie-only" leadership guy or whether they were going to give him some NHL ice time.
- AND THEN THERE'S THIS: The Monsters were also without the services of Kerby Rychel (called up a week earlier) and suspended players Brett Gallant (one game) and Trent Vogelhuber (two games). I offered to play a few fourth-line shifts but was told the team had no need for a 46-year-old left winger with poor skating ability, horrible hands and only one functioning skate lace.
In any event, here's how the weekend broke down for the boys in white...
Friday, November 20
Lake Erie 3, Iowa Wild 2
Geez, poor Iowa. One of the reasons the Monsters have gotten off to such a good start is because they have faced Iowa six times in their first 16 games. And the Wild are...not so good to this point. All three Lake Erie goals in this one were scored by defensemen, including Jaime Sifers' first two scores of the year. Justin Falk had the other Monsters goal as LEM rallied from a 2-1 deficit. Credit another victory to Joonas Korpisalo, who made 31 saves.
Saturday, November 21
Lake Erie 3, Iowa Wild 2
Same score, different set of key players. Saturday it was the line of Ryan Craig, Alex Broadhurst and Daniel Zaar doing most of the damage. The trio combined for two goals and four assists, including a goal by Zaar with 2.1 seconds to play in the middle period that tied things up at 2. Newly signed DeBlois got the game-winner, though, burying one eight minutes into the third period with assists from Falk and T.J. Tynan. The Monsters' goalie rotation, in which there increasingly seems to be no clear-cut #1, saw Anton Forsberg take his turn on Saturday and get the win on the strength of 19 saves. Lake Erie outshot the Wild for the second consecutive night, 38-21, and is now 5-0-0-1 against Iowa this season.
Sunday, November 22
Rockford Ice Hogs 3, Lake Erie 1
This was the Monsters' first look at their Central Division rivals, and the Ice Hogs showed why they've been keeping pace with Lake Erie near the top of the standings since the start of the season. Behind strong goaltending by veteran Michael Leighton, Rockford stifled the Monsters' attack and scored twice in the third period to grab the victory. Once again it was DeBlois providing the offense, as the former Michigan Wolverine scored an even-strength goal nine minutes into the final period (with the assist to Sifers) that made it 2-1 and kept things interesting. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Monsters.
COMING UP THIS WEEK
Lake Erie returns home for the Thanksgiving holiday, hosting the Manitoba Moose (Winnipeg's affiliate, as you might imagine) Wednesday and Friday nights. After that it's a quick one-game roadie up to Grand Rapids for a Saturday night affair against the Griffins. Manitoba and Grand Rapids' combined record? 9-17-1-2. No matter who is skating for the Monsters this week, it would appear there are some points available for the taking.