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Lake Erie Express finally slowed

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Monsters look sluggish, drop two of three games in three nights

Photo courtesy of Lake Erie Monsters

Perhaps the most interesting news last week about the Lake Erie Monsters happened off the ice with the signings of veterans Manny Malhotra and Jan Hejda to player tryout contracts. Because what happened on the ice for the Monsters was, for one of the few times so far this season, not so impressive.

The Monsters (13-6-1-2) managed only one win in three games, splitting a two-game home series with the lowly Iowa Wild and losing for the second consecutive week on the road in Grand Rapids.

The Malhotra and Hejda signings, along with Kerby Rychel and Justin Falk getting sent back to Cleveland, will hopefully inject a little life into the suddenly lackluster Monsters. Lake Erie is still without Michael Chaput, who was called up to Columbus and responded by scoring the Jackets' only goal in Friday's 2-1 loss to Florida.

Statistically, three guys had multi-point weekends for Lake Erie: John Ramage (2G), Josh Anderson (1G, 1A) and Trent Vogelhuber (1G, 1A).

Here's a look back at the week that was in Monsterland:

GAME RECAPS
Thursday, December 3
Iowa Wild 4, Lake Erie 2

For the first time in seven games this season, the Wild managed to defeat Lake Erie in regulation, and the Monsters looked pretty bad in the process. Never mind that Iowa came into the contest with a sparkling 3-16-1-3 record. And never mind that Lake Erie was able to jump out to a 2-0 lead (an advantage that Coach Jared Bednar rightly termed "a mirage"). The Monsters simply never seemed ready to play in this one, despite the addition of Malhotra, who centered the fourth line and did a lot of little things well while still clearly trying to get his competitive legs under him after several months of not playing in game situations.

Anderson and Ramage scored in the first 40 minutes to give Lake Erie the edge, but after that the youngsters just seemed to wilt in the face of an Iowa team that had lost its past 13 games. They gave up four unanswered goals and didn't do their netminder, Joonas Korpisalo, any favors, though it must be said that Korpisalo himself wasn't at his best, either.

These games happen, but they shouldn't happen against a last-place team that you've previously dominated. Clearly the Monsters needed to redeem themselves the following night when they hosted Iowa for what was, amazingly and already, the eighth and final time these division rivals will face each other in the regular season. Read on...

Friday, December 4
Lake Erie 3, Iowa Wild 1

With less than 10 minutes to play in the third period, Lake Erie found itself on the short end of a very frustrating 1-0 deficit in this one. But it wasn't for lack of trying, at least in the final period, when the Monsters came out flying and kept constant pressure on the Iowa net.

It finally paid off when Ramage got his second goal in as many games (his only two goals of the season thus far). Anderson took a shot from the right circle that was saved by Iowa tender Leland Irving, but a pinching Ramage was there to collect the rebound and bang it home to tie the game at 1.

Then, six minutes later with overtime looming, it was the veteran Malhotra making things happen and getting his first point as a Monster. Malhotra won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Michael Paliotta, who launched a slap shot from the right side. The puck hit something in flight and deflected past Irving for the game-winner. The officials thought that "something" was Malhotra's stick, though Malhotra himself claimed afterward that the puck hit an Iowa stick and the goal should therefore be credited to Paliotta. The Monsters have petitioned the AHL to officially change the goal scorer from Malhotra to Paliotta, so we'll see what happens there. Malhotra will still get a well-deserved assist if the adjustment is made.

Vogelhuber sewed it up for the Monsters by burying an empty-netter with 31 seconds to play. Anton Forsberg stopped 19 of 20 Iowa shots to get the win in net.

Saturday, December 5
Grand Rapids Griffins 4, Lake Erie 1

For the second consecutive Saturday night, the Monsters lost in Grand Rapids' Van Andel Arena. The Monsters enjoyed a huge (42-17) advantage in shots on goal and probably deserved better. They outplayed the Griffins for vast stretches, but gave up two breakaway goals (one right out of the penalty box), a deflection that Korpisalo couldn't have seen, and an empty-netter. Dean Kukan got his third goal of the year on a point shot to make it 2-1 in the third period, but it just wasn't meant to be as Grand Rapids won its eighth in a row.

COMING UP NEXT

The Monsters are off until the weekend, when they host the Chicago Wolves (St. Louis affiliate) for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday. It will be the first time since October that Lake Erie hasn't had a stretch of either three games in three nights or three games in four nights over a weekend.