The Lake Erie Monsters' success 10 games into the season has been built on exactly what we didn't expect it to be built on: Great goaltending, sound defense, and only a smattering of productive 5-on-5 offense. But hey, a 6-2-0-2 record at this point is as much as you could hope for, and it has the Monsters in second place in the AHL's Central Division.
The Monsters had three road games in three nights this past weekend, and after dropping the first one Friday evening in Milwaukee, they made the bus ride back to Cleveland a happy one with a pair of 3-2 victories in Iowa: the first a shootout affair on Saturday and the second a comeback, regulation win Sunday afternoon.
Of Lake Erie's six goals over the weekend, three came on the power play, one was shorthanded, and only two (both scored in Sunday's win) came in even-strength situations. The Monsters are scoring fewer than three goals per game so far, but they're also giving up fewer than 2½ goals per contest, which is why there are only six AHL teams with better winning percentages to this point.
Despite losing sniper Oliver Bjorkstrand to an upper-body injury for the next 4 to 6 weeks, there's still seemingly a great deal of young offensive talent on the Lake Erie roster, and you'd like to see the Monsters put that to better use in upcoming games. Still, the Blue Jackets' front office has to be thrilled with what they're seeing from their AHL prospects in the defensive third of the ice, and we all know how far defense and goaltending can ultimately take a team.
Anyway, let's take a look at the three weekend games, then we'll talk about some miscellaneous news and notes. Hopefully that's a format that works for everyone (and hey, if I haven't said it before, thanks for reading these Monday Monsters updates...your scribe greatly appreciates it!)
Friday, November 6
Milwaukee 3, Lake Erie 1
Admirals goaltender Jusse Saros blanked the Monsters until the 18:36 mark of the third period, when Alex Broadhurst found the back of the net during a 6-on-4 power play with Anton Forsberg pulled for the extra skater. Daniel Zaar got the lone assist on the goal, which made it 2-1 for a brief time before Milwaukee closed things out with an empty-netter. Forsberg stopped 20 shots in the loss.
Saturday, November 7
Lake Erie 3, Iowa 2 (SO)
Lake Erie held a 2-1 lead through much of the third period before allowing the game-tying goal to Iowa with four minutes to play in regulation. Following a scoreless overtime period, it was Sonny Milano tallying the only goal of the shootout on a glove-side backhander. Joonas Korpisalo stopped all three Iowa skaters he faced in the shootout and 35 total shots during the course of play to get the win and improve to 2-0-0-2.
Michael Paliotta and Broadhurst notched regulation-time power-play goals for the Monsters. Broadhurst registered one of the assists on Paliotta's goal (Paliotta's first of the season).
Sunday, November 8
Lake Erie 3, Iowa 2
The Monsters gave up two goals in the first five minutes of the game, then slowly clawed their way back into it and won largely thanks to the efforts of Mr. Andrew Bodnarchuk. The veteran blueliner figured on all three Lake Erie goals, scoring once and assisting on the other two.
Bodnarchuk's goal was an unassuming low wrister from the left side that managed to find its way into the net for his second marker of the year late in the opening period. Later, Bodnarchuk threw in a long shot from the left point that Trent Vogelhuber deflected in (it was also Vogelhuber's second of the season). The game-winner, meanwhile, was a shorthander by Josh Anderson, who had an empty net to aim for after the Monsters intercepted an ill-advised pass off the stick of Iowa goaltender Jeremy Smith. Assists went to – who else? – Vogelhuber and Bodnarchuk.
Forsberg got the start and the win as he continues to be seen by Coach Jared Bednar as the #1 netminder. Forsberg is now 4-2-0-0 on the season.
- In case you missed it last week, the Blue Jackets terminated the contract of Austin Madaisky to allow him to go and play in Germany. Madaisky was an AHL all-star last year at Springfield, but he had skated in only one game for the Monsters this season and it was clear that he just wasn't in the organization's plans. Why? Hard to say. Could have been behind-the-scenes bickering about his role, a relative lack of production and/or effort in training camp and early in the season, or a combination of the two. Who knows? These sorts of things are often a mystery about which neither the player nor the team are especially willing to talk. In any case, going to Europe may be the best bet for the 23-year-old defenseman, who is still young enough to play his way back into the North American professional hockey ranks in time.
- If you're keeping track – and we give you credit if you are, because this is getting increasingly difficult to follow – the Blue Jackets recalled Kerby Rychel from Lake Erie last week, brought him out to the West Coast and made him a healthy scratch for Thursday's 3-2 win over the L.A. Kings, then sent him back to the AHL on Friday. He rejoined the Monsters Saturday in Des Moines for the first game against the Wild. It was the third NHL recall of the season for Rychel, who has only actually skated in one game for Columbus this year.
- Lake Erie has three games this coming week, starting with a morning school day game in Milwaukee against the Admirals this Wednesday. That contest will face off at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. The Monsters then return home Friday and Saturday evenings for a pair of games against the Grand Rapids Griffins.