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Cleveland Monsters first line shone bright in shootout victory over the Rochester Americans

Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

Cleveland Monsters (4) at Rochester Americans (3) - Shootout

Last night, the Cleveland Monsters kicked off the first of their back-to-back-to-back roadtrip against the Rochester Americans.

After last Saturday’s poor showing at home, the lines were shaken up a bit. Stefan Matteau was bumped up to the first line. While Marko Dano dropped to the second. Paul Bittner drew into the lineup on the fourth line.

In a pregame interview with Tony Brown, play by play announcer for the Monsters, Head Coach Mike Eaves slightly touched on the makeup of the lines and pairs. “I think from a defensive standpoint we haven’t made any changes,” Eaves explained to Brown, “Offensively we made some changes. We’re still learning about chemistry. Who plays well with who. Who mixes and matches well.”

Eaves even took the time to brace people for future line changes by telling Brown “I know over the course of this long season we’re going to see many line combinations because that’s just the nature of the beast”.

For the most part, the line changes worked well as the Monsters were able to pull out a 4-3 win over the Americans in a shootout. All four goals came courtesy of the fist line consisting of Nathan Gerbe, Kevin Stenlund, and Matteau.

Last weekend, the defense struggled. The exact words Coach Eaves used to describe their play was “sloppy”. Last night was a completely different different story. In fact, they were a solid force in the first four minutes of the game.

Gabriel Carlsson and Adam Clendening had a passing system going that threw off the Amerks. They just kept passing the puck back and forth without looking at one another. Occasionally Carlsson and Clendening would stare at the Amerks and challenge them to steal the puck. When an Amerk would take the bait, Carlsson or Clendening would take off with the puck and try to get it out of the neutral zone. This tactic set up a few plays for Kole Sherwood.

Andrew Peeke set up multiple plays for Dillon Simpson. Unfortunately, the Amerks defense managed to throw their bodies into every single slapper from the blue line and point. Peeke also refused to get out of the way of anyone who had the puck. His unwillingness to move caused multiple Amerks to fumble the puck.

Also during the first, Stenlund and Gerbe took turns placing themselves in areas surrounding the net which would allow them to scoop up failed shot attempts.

Despite all the shot attempts that happened in the first, the Monsters first registered shot didn’t come until there was 4:13 left in the period. This says more about the Amerks’ defense than the Monsters ability to find openings.

The lack of shots on goal didn’t keep the Monsters from scoring. A little over two minutes into the second period, Gerbe launched a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that Matteau tipped in for the first goal of the game.

Casey Nelson fired off a rocket of a shot from the point 25 seconds later. Dalton Smith was in the right place at the right time and was able to knock the puck into the net for the tying goal, 1-1.

With 12:44 left in the second period, Sam Vigneault and Calvin Thurkauf pulled out all the stops during a Monsters’ penalty kill. They created play after play but not a goal went into the net. Andrew Hammond was just too quick for both of them.

Around the halfway mark of the second, Stenlund went one-on-one with Hammond before popping the puck into the net to give the Monsters the 2-1 lead.

The lead didn’t last long for the Monsters. Marko Dano missed his man, Jean-Sebastien Dea, with 9:27 left in the second period. The quick footed Dea powered towards the net before sniping the puck past Matiss Kivlenieks.

The Amerks took the 3-2 lead with a wild goal off the faceoff from Scott Wilson.

The rest of the second period was a bit crazy.

Kivlenieks pulled out highlight reel save after highlight reel save. While, Dano got into the Monsters’ first fight of the season. Yes, you read that correctly. Sweet, kind, Marko Dano got into a fight. It didn’t end well for him as I don’t think Dano was actually prepared to get pummeled by Will Borgen.

The third period was equal parts messy and clean.

A minute into the third Peeke took a stick to the face and headed towards the bench to get looked over. He made it back on the ice for his next shift a few minutes later but I was left scratching my head wondering why no call was made.

Four and a half minutes into the last stanza of play, Clendening turned the puck over but quickly stole it back and passed it off to Zac Dalpe. Despite a quick breakaway and heavy handed shot, Dalpe was stuffed by Hammond. For some reason, Dalpe has been on a scoring slump these past few games. He just can’t seem to get the monkey off his back. Luckily, it hasn’t taken a toll on Dalpe’s game and confidence.

With five minutes left in the game, Matteau tied the game up at three to give the Monsters that extra push towards the finish line.

As time wound down on the third period, things heated up between both teams. There was a lot of aggressive shoving and both goalies dug deep into their bag of magic tricks to come up with saves.

Despite the plethora of shot attempts from the Amerks and Monsters, no goals were scored. Overtime was imminent.

Gerbe, Clendening, and Stenlund kicked overtime off with a beautiful sequence. Clendening set Gerbe up with a cross ice pass. Gerbe rushed the net with the puck but was quickly stuffed by Hammond. Hot on the trail, Stenlund scooped up the rebound and almost scored. Somehow Hammond managed to close up the gap in the net in time to prevent a goal from happening.

A few moments later, Dano dropped a pass back to Justin Scott who launched it towards the wide open net. Hammond used his super speed to get back into the net before the puck could cross the goal line.

On the other end of the ice, Kivlenieks was jumping on pucks and knocking them out of the air like a cat playing with a ball of yarn.

Neither goalie wanted to let the game winning goal get past them. Due to this fact, the game headed to a shootout.

The Amerks sent Tage Thompson onto the ice first. He skated left to right before going toe-to-toe with Kivlenieks. He tried to shoot from the top of the crease and was quickly stuffed.

Gerbe was the first shooter for the Monsters during the shootout. He got a little fancy with his stick handling before backhanding the shot into the net. It was a thing of beauty. Don’t believe me? Feast your peepers on the shot below.

Both goalies stood tall during the second round of the shootout quickly stopping their opponent.

C.J. Smith was the Amerks last shot at possibly pushing the shootout to the 4th round. He powered towards the net in hopes of keeping hope alive. As Smith neared the net, he lost grip of his stick and fired a softie towards Kivlenieks which he quickly stuffed for the Monsters 4-3 win.

It was the easiest save Kivlenieks made last night and will probably be the easiest save he makes all season.

3 Stars

1st - Stefan Matteau (Cleveland Monsters) - 2g, 0a
2nd - Nathan Gerbe (Cleveland Monsters) - 0g, 3a, Shootout goal
3rd - Scott Wilson (Rochester Americans) - 1g, 1a

Monsters Lines

Gerbe - Stenlund - Matteau
Dano - Dalpe - Robinson
Vigneault - Scott - Sherwood
Bittner - MacInnis - Thurkauf

Monsters Pairs

Carlsson - Clendening
Simpson - Peeke
Somerby - Collins

What’s Next

After tonight’s game, the Monsters packed up and headed towards Canada where they will play against the Toronto Marlies on Saturday and Sunday. Both games have a 4pm est start.