Cleveland Monsters (4) at Grand Rapids Griffins (0)
The Monsters scored four unanswered goals against the first-place Griffins tonight.
The first came with a little under five minutes left in the first period. Markus Hannikainen won a battle along the boards behind Brad Thiessen and sped down the ice. Once he hit center ice, Hannikainen passed the puck to Kukan who spun around and passed it back to Hannikainen. Joe Pendenza was wide open at the top of the left faceoff circle. Hannikainen redirected Kukan's pass to Pendenza who fired the puck into the net. What a beauty of a play.
Three goals were scored in the second period.
Two minutes and forty seconds into the second period, Sonny Milano extended the Monsters lead to two. The play began when Dean Kukan created a turnover in the defensive zone. He passed to Sam Vigneault who was waiting at center ice. Vigneault quickly passed the puck to Hannikainen who passed it back to Vigneault. Out of the corner of his eye, Vigneault saw Milano racing towards the net and quickly passed the puck to him for the goal.
It was Hannikainen's turn next to score next. Around the halfway mark of the second period, Vigneault tied Evgeny Svechnikov up along the boards to the right of Jared Coureau. Milano capitalized on the opportunity, scooped the puck up, and passed to Hannikainen who was in front of the net. Hannikainen slammed the puck home to extend the Monsters lead to three.
Milano earned his second goal of the night with five minutes left in the second period.
John Ramage fed the puck to Milano who fired it from below the faceoff dot and off the crossbar into the net.
When the third period came around, the Griffins replaced Coreau with Eddie Pasquale. Neither team would score another goal.
But Wait! There's More
- Vitaly Abramov is speedy and has cat-like reflexes. He avoided many bone crushing hits into the board at the last millisecond. Abramov and Vigneault worked their butts off to make plays happen. Jared Coreau was able to read most of them. Don't let the four goals fool you, Coreau actually played a decent game. The Monsters just got the best of him with some amazing goals that all started with incredible passing.
- Brad Thiessen was pulling out all the stops tonight. He lost his stick twice during a rush and managed to stick with the opposition stopping every shot. Not only is Thiessen an incredible goalie but his compassion is always on display. While waiting for a delayed penalty, Coach John Madden pulled Thiessen for the extra attacker. He realized TJ Tynan was down on the ice and not moving after taking a leg to the face. Instead of heading towards the bench, Thiessen stayed with Tynan until he knew everything was ok.
- The Monsters had another slow start in the shots department tonight. They were unable to fire off their first one until five and half minutes into the first period. The second shot of the night didn't come until about four minutes later. By the end of the night, they were a well-oiled shot taking machine and ended the game with 21 shots on goal. I'm just glad three of their first nine shots of the night turned into goals. Not a bad percentage.
- There was a moment in the first where it was basically the Dominik Shine and Markus Hannikainen show. Shine beat Hannikainen in a foot race but Thiessen was able to knock the puck away. Hannikainen picked up the rebound and raced Shine to the other end of the ice. No goal came of this but boy was it incredible to watch. Both Shine and Hannikainen are like cheetahs on the ice.
- The Griffins tried to drop the gloves with the Monsters a boat load of times tonight. Let's start with Dylan McIlrath since he tried to go with multiple Monsters. First, he tried to make a go with Sonny Milano. The refs stepped in fast after Milano pushed him back.While I think the fight would have been pointless, I am glad to see Milano standing up for himself. Especially against a guy who is 6'5”. Both were sent to the box for roughing. Next, McIlrath tried to fight Jordan Maletta. When Maletta politely declined the fight, McIlrath dropped him to the ground. Clearly, McIlrath went to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct. In the final few minutes of the game, Oleg Yevenko decided enough was enough and dropped the gloves with McIlrath. I think the funniest of all the attempted fights came from Mitch Callahan who tried to fight Dean Kukan. DEAN KUKAN. I don't think that kid has ever played dirty or gotten in a fight once in his entire hockey career.
The Monsters handled each of these situations correctly. Milano needed to stand up for himself. Maletta knew the momentum was in the favor of the Monsters. Getting into a fight could possibly fire up the Griffins. Kukan stayed true to himself. Noted protector, Yevenko, did his job and showed McIlrath that he was being absolutely ridiculous.
If this had happened earlier in the season, I believe things would have gotten unhinged really fast. The Monsters have finally realized there is a time and place for everything.
1st - Brad Thiessen (31 shots faced, 31 saves, SHUTOUT)
2nd – Sonny Milano (2g, 1a)
3rd – Markus Hannikainen (1g, 2a)
After tonight's win, the Monsters still sit securely in fifth place. Why? Because the Charlotte Checkers decided to decimate the Texas Stars, 9-3. Plus, Charlotte has one game in hand.
They still have four games left. One against the Texas Stars, two against the Grand Rapids Griffins, and one against the Chicago Wolves.
I have a feeling the Monsters won't know if they are in the playoffs or not until Saturday when the Checkers play the Wolves.
The boys hop on the bus and head towards Cleveland for a 5pm tilt against the Griffins at home.
Thursday and Friday the Monsters will face the Manitoba Moose. Both games will take place at 7pm est.
Monsters fans, be prepared to get to both games as early as possible. Parking will be sparse. The Indians play the White Sox on Thursday at 6:10 pm and the Tigers at 7:10pm on Friday.