Cleveland Monsters (3) at Charlotte Checkers (1)
The Cleveland Monsters won their third game in a row last night beating the Charlotte Checkers 3-1. Marko Dano led the way with two goals in the third period. While Elvis Merzlikins had a near shutout stopping 28 of the 29 shots he faced.
Andrew Peeke kicked the scoring off for the Monsters 3:46 into the first period. Unattended, Peeke slowly rolled to a pass from Kevin Stenlund, wound up. and launched it into the net from the top of the faceoff circle.
Due to the defense’s ability to keep the Checkers out of shooting lanes, Elvis Merzlikins saw a paltry five shots in the first period. On the other end of the ice, the Monsters managed to fire of 15 shots at Anton Forsberg. If it wasn’t for Forsberg’s quick reflexes, the Monsters could have easily put a few more goals on the board in the first period.
One specific save comes to mind with 9:30 to play in the first period. Stefan Matteau fired a point blank shot at Forsberg who quickly kicked it away. Before Matteau could push the rebound into the net, Forsberg poked the puck behind the net forcing Matteau and the Monsters to come up with another play.
The Monsters had trouble firing off shots during the second period. Their first registered shot on goal was registered with 4:53 left in the second. This was partially due to the fact Jake Bean was constantly swooping in to pick off passes.
During the Monsters shooting drought Merzlikins skills were tested by the Checkers. Merzlikins passed with flying colors as he didn’t allow a single goal all period.
One thing that is great about Merzlikins is the way he tries to correct mistakes. Around the halfway mark of the second period, Merzlikins left the net wide open. Brian Gibbons saw this and quickly launched the puck at the net. He missed it by a hair. When Merzlikins realized the Checkers were going to scoop up the rebound, he completely filled the net with his body until the whistle was called. With the help of the Monsters’ defensemen, the rebound didn’t turn into a goal.
Merzlikins showed his ability to make great choices on the fly. With 4:53 left in the second, Merzlikins stopped and initial shot with the butt of his stick. When he realized the puck was still moving towards the goal, he dropped the stick and quickly covered the puck with his hands.
The second period also housed a very dominant power play for the Monsters. They didn’t score but they maintained control during the entire two minutes of man-advantage play.
After almost 40 minutes without a goal, Marko Dano opened up the flood gates 1:14 into the third period. Jakob Lilja saw Dano creeping into the upper slot and quickly passed him the puck. Upon receiving the puck, Dano sniped it down the slot and into the net giving the Monsters a 2-0 lead over the Checkers. Lilja could have easily made the choice to power towards the net and try to score. Instead, he was aware of where each Monsters was on the ice allowing Lilja to give the puck to someone who had a cleaner path to the net.
Dano came back for seconds 5:32 into the final period of play. This time it was a back handed shot on the penalty kill to give the Monsters the 3-0 lead and place them atop the leaderboard in shorthanded goals (7).
The Checkers ruined Merzlikins’ shutout 8:38 into the third period when Cavan Fitzgerald fired a wrister from the top of the faceoff circle.
After Fitzgerald’s goal, Merzlikins refused to let any puck enter the crease. There were even points in the third period when Merzlikins left the crease to pounce on a puck because he saw the defense was trying to prevent screens and close up open lanes.
In the end, the Checkers couldn’t find another weak spot in Merzlikins’ armor and the Monsters skated away with the 3-1 win.
The Monsters and Checkers meet again on Wednesday night at 7pm.
1st - Marko Dano (Cleveland Monsters) - 2g, 0a
2nd - Elvis Merzlikins (Cleveland Monsters) - 29 shots faced, 28 saves, 60:00 TOI
3rd - Cavan Fitzgerald (Charlotte Checkers) - 1g, 0a
Nathan Gerbe - Kevin Stenlund - Stefan Matteau
Jakob Lilja - Ryan MacInnis - Marko Dano
Sam Vigneault - Justin Scott - Markus Hannikainen
Calvin Thurkauf - Derek Barach - Paul Bittner
Gabriel Carlsson - Adam Clendening
Dillon Simpson - Andrew Peeke
Anton Karlsson - Doyle Somerby