Utica Comets (6) at Cleveland Monsters (2)
The Cleveland Monsters fell to the Utica Comets, 6-2, this afternoon.
Due to Tyler Madden being in the gold medal game of the World Juniors Championship, Head Coach John Madden was on the scratch list for this afternoon’s game. Assistant Coach Steve McCarthy stepped in and took the reigns for the Monsters tilt against the Comets.
Sometimes having a different coach running the show for a bit breathes new life into a team. Unfortunately, this was not the case for the Monsters. By the time the second period ended, the game was basically over.
“Obviously, the game was lost in the second period. It was just a commitment issue. I’m pretty sure we lost every battle after. We need to bounce back and have a much better effort.” – Assistant Coach Steve McCarthy
Rudimentary mistakes by the Monsters led to five of the six Comets’ goals. Let me break down each goal for you.
The first goal by the Comets was a beautifully written play. Six and half minutes into the second period, Wacey Hamilton won the defensive zone faceoff and tossed the puck backwards to Zack MacEwen who one-timed it into the net.
Short of winning the faceoff, there was no way the Monsters were stopping this goal from going in.
About halfway through the second period, Jesse Graham fired off a shot from the near faceoff circle. It hit the space beneath Jean-Francois Berube’s mitt and bounced into the net extending the Comets’ lead to 2-0.
At first glance one could say that was a lucky goal for the Comets. However, the whole situation could have been stopped from the beginning had they not left Graham alone. By not paying attention to him, Carter Bancks was able to slide the puck across the ice to him.
The third goal came with 8:57 left in the second period. Kole Sherwood made a great play when he knocked Adam Gaudette to the ground on his way to the net. Unfortunately, the hard hit distracted everyone on the ice from seeing the fumbled puck fly towards Vincent Arseneau. When puck came into Arseneau’s line of sight, he dropped to his knee and fired into the back of the net.
Listen, I know the game is fast paced and pucks can get lost in the fray. It happens every once in a while. What I want to know why every single person on the ice but Arseneau was distracted by Sherwood’s hit? Especially, Ryan Collins and Michael Prapavessis. As defencemen, it’s your job to protect the goalie. Yet, there they were leaving him wide open to be scored on because they were distracted.
Gaudette extended the Comets lead to 4-0 after tricking Gabriel Carlsson with 5:24 left in the second. Carlsson moved quickly to the right because he thought Gaudette was going to pass the puck off to a nearby teammate. When Carlsson moved, Gaudette smiled and fired the puck into the net down the open lane he just created. Gaudette was hoping Carlsson would play into his fake pass.
Yes, this mistake by Carlsson led to a goal. However, he was not the only one making this particular mistake tonight. Multiple Monsters made bad decisions due to being unaware of their surroundings.
Gaudette extended the Comets lead again with 2:18 left in the second. Berube was confused by the amount of traffic in front of the net and couldn’t decide which way to move. Gaudette saw his opening and sniped the puck from just above the goal line into the corner of the net.
This goal falls squarely on Berube’s shoulders. His overly apprehensive play and slow movements allowed Gaudette to assess all the different angles from which he could score.
At the start of the third period, Brad Thiessen replaced Berube in net. McCarthy made the change in an attempt to reinvigorate the team and prevent the Comets from scoring again. Unfortunately, the Comets extended their lead to 6-0 around halfway through the period.
Kole Lind fired a shot down the slot. Thiessen quickly kicked it away but Brendan Gaunce picked up the rebound goal.
There were zero Monsters around to scoop up the rebound and clear the puck. No one. Not one Monster was close enough to the crease to prevent the Comets from scoring off of a rebound.
As you can see, the simple breakdowns killed the Monsters today.
However, there were some bright spots in today’s game.
Despite not scoring on the power play, the Monsters still looked good.
“We did everything but score. Obviously, you would like to get one. Especially with the 5-on-3. It can change momentum of the game. It would have been nice but I was happy. We did a lot of good things. We got some chances.” – Assistant Coach Steve McCarthy
They just couldn’t get anything past Kulbakov. Let’s be honest here, every goalie has a chip on their shoulder when they play their former team. Plus, the last time Kulbakov started for the Comets it was in their horrifying 10-1 loss to the Syracuse Crunch on December 28th. Nothing lights a fire under a goalie’s butt more than giving up eight goals in a game.
The Monsters put a little bit more effort into the last six minutes of the game and were able to score two goals..
With 6:29 to play in the game, Sonny Milano skated around the back of the net and fired the puck through the tiniest opening to score.
A minute and 23 second later, Kole Sherwood picked up a rebound and fired it to Nathan Gerbe from below the goal line. Gerbe fired the into the net from the slot.
The fans were very pleased with the two goals. However, this last-minute display of effort was rather unimpressive to McCarthy.
“It’s tough to judge. Obviously, if you’re Utica, you’ve put the game away already. They take their foot off the gas pedal. I don’t really put too much stock into that.” - Steve McCarthy
The Monsters have a chance at redemption on Sunday at 3pm.
1st – Adam Gaudette (2g, 1a)
2nd – Vincent Arseneau (2g, 0a)
3rd – Ivan Kulbakov (30 shots faced, 28 saves, 59:36 TOI)
The Monsters and Comets meet again tomorrow at 3pm. The game will be on Sports Time Ohio.