Cleveland Monsters (3) at Laval Rocket (2)
The Cleveland Monsters kicked off the Mike Eaves era last night against the Laval Rocket. A new coach paired with a new season meant the energy was completely different from the players. They looked cool, calm, and confident.
Despite this new energy, the Rocket were able to score the first goal of the night 23 seconds into the game. Alex Belzile managed to sweep the puck into the crease while wrapped up with Gabriel Carlsson. Adam Clendening was unable to get to the puck before it trickled into the net for the Rocket’s 1-0 lead.
Almost 20 seconds later, the Monsters would spend have four minutes worth of power play time over the course of four minutes and 19 seconds. The first power play unit of Zac Dalpe, Kevin Stenlund, Nathan Gerbe, Markus Hannikainen, and Clendening struggled a bit in the beginning. One of the first things they did was turn over the puck. As time ticked down on the man advantage, Stenlund grew more comfortable and confident on the ice. He forced a few key turnovers and fired meaningful shots at Charlie Lindgren.
Dillon Simpson, Paul Bittner, Marko Dano, Trey Fix-Wolansky, and Andrew Peeke made up the second power play unit for the Monsters. They were extremely good at tying up multiple opponents along the board. This made it hard for the Rocket to put fresh legs on the ice.
Trey Fix-Wolanksy was the highlight of the second power play unit. He found multiple ways to sneak around the Rocket and rush the net. This caused the Rocket to panic a few times.
The Monsters were unable to tie the game on the power play but there were a lot of good things that came out of the special teams. For instance, due to Fix-Wolansky’s wiley ways, the Rocket began to triple team him on the boards leaving four Monsters to their own devices.
With 10:32 left in the first period, Calvin Thurkauf tied the game at one for the Monsters. Andrew Peeke powered towards the net causing Lindgren to cut off the right side of the net. Lindgren now had his back to the left side of the crease which was now wide open. Thurkauf slid into position at the top of the crease and was able to slam the puck into the net after Peeke threw the puck his way.
Two minutes later, Clendening went to the box for hooking and we got to see the Monsters’ penalty kill for the first time this season. Ryan MacInnis spent the kill making great play after great play.
As time wound down on the first period, a few of the veteran forwards began to play a slightly sloppy game. However, it led to nothing detrimental.
The second period was the fourth line show for the Monsters. Thurkauf, MacInnis, and Bittner spent the bulk of the period trying to make smart plays. They also spent a lot of time forcing the Rocket to cough up the puck.
The Rocket threw everything they had at Kivlenieks in the second. They rushed the net, tried fancy plays, and sniped wristers from near the blue line. Nothing was getting past Kivlenieks during the second period. In the same token, nothing was getting past Lindgren either. Both teams would stay tied at one for the duration of the middle stanza of play.
The Monsters kicked the last period of play off on the power play for the first 1:42. Nothing of note happened on the power play. Although having the man advantage so early allowed the Monsters a bit more time to asses what they needed to do to score.
With 13:51 left in the game, Charles Hudon hustle towards Kivlenieks hungry for a goal. Before he could fire off a shot Clendening applied the pressure and poke the puck away. Hudon was not pleased with missing out on a goal and dedicated the next few minutes trying to crack Kivleniek’s code.
Almost three minutes later, Hudon was able to satiate his hunger with a power play goal. From between the circles, Xavier Ouellet passed the puck to Belzile who was posted at the top of the right circle. Belzile could have easily fired a shot down the ice. Instead he send the puck to the opposite circle where Hudon was posted. Hudon dropped to one knee and fired into the back of the net.
With 9:02 left in the game, Justin Scott barreled down the ice and fired a heavy wrister at the net. Lindgren was able to quickly block the shot causing the puck to bounce in Clendening’s direction. Clendening raced to the puck and then slammed it home for the tying goal, 2-2.
When the final three minutes of the game rolled around, the Monsters and Rocket were still tied at two. In the past, the Monsters would play a version of frantic hockey when they were tied towards the end of the game. Pushing the game into overtime always seemed to be the goal. Last night was different. The Monsters headed into the final three minutes of play with their heads held high ready to wrap this game up in regulation. They didn’t haphazardly pepper Lindgren with shots nor did they erratically pass the puck.
With 1:40 left in the game, Fix-Wolansky calmly skated past the Rocket defender before backhanding the puck down the slot and into the net.
WHAT A BACKHANDER!— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) October 5, 2019
3-2 Monsters pic.twitter.com/wMONp9mGJU
Thanks to Kivlenieks and the Monsters phenomenal positioning, the Rocket had zero hope of tying the game. When the buzzer sounded the Monsters were crowned the winner of the first game of the season.
1st- Alex Belzile (1g,1a) - Laval Rocket
2nd - Adam Clendening (1g, 0a) - Cleveland Monsters
3rd - Charles Hudon (1g, 0a) - Laval Rocket
The Monsters and Rocket meet again on Saturday, October 5th at 3pm.
They head home to play at the newly renovated Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Friday, October 11th at 7pm. If you haven’t seen the arena since it’s been renovated, make sure you get there early and walk around. You won’t regret it.