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Cleveland Monsters sweep Charlotte Checkers in weekend series

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Nathan Gerbe shutdown the Checkers with his beautiful penalty shot goal on Friday. While the defense shone bright scoring three of the Monsters’ five goals on Sunday.

Dillon Simpson celebrates his first period goal in the Cleveland Monsters 5-2 win over the Charlotte Checkers on November 3rd, 2019.
Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

Charlotte Checkers (1) at Cleveland Monsters (2) - Overtime (Friday)
Charlotte Checkers (1) at Cleveland Monsters (5) (Sunday)

The Cleveland Monsters and the defending Calder Cup Campions, the Charlotte Checkers, battled it out in a physical and thrilling weekend series at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

Friday’s game was a very close game which kept you on the edge of your seat until the final shot of the night.

“The thing that’s fresh on my mind right now is that’s probably the tightest, most intense hockey game we’ve played. It’s a man’s game out there and both teams played hard and competed.”- Head Coach Mike Eaves

The physical style play started 1:30 into the game courtesy of Andrew Peeke when he dropped someone behind the net while battling for the puck.

A few minutes later, the Monsters scored the first goal of the night. Justin Scott skated around the back of the net and fired a pass off to Dillon Simpson who sniped it past Alex Nedeljkovic.

Fans were treated to a fight 7:43 into the game when Doyle Somerby and Max McCormick dropped the gloves.

Somerby laid a heavy hit on McCormick which caused a shoving match to ensue in front of Matiss Kivlenieks. The refs skated in to break up the pushing but both players wanted to duke it out.

While the fighting penalties were being served, Gabriel Carlsson accidentally hooked someone and headed to the box. Kivlenieks spent the penalty kill basically standing on his head to stop shots from becoming goals. Unfortunately, one shot during the pk managed to sneak by Kivlenieks when Adam Clendening tipped Eetu Luostarinen’s shot into the net.

“We gave up a goal tonight but it actually went off our stick.” - Head Coach Mike Eaves

The rest of the first period was spent watching Calvin Thurkauf and Doyle Somerby lay hard and heavy hits.

For the first four minutes of the second period, the fourth line of Thurkauf, Ryan MacInnis, and Paul Bittner spent their time trying to find the crack in Nedeljkovic’s armor. They were close a few times but nothing was able to squeak through.

The Monsters’ hunger for goals spread across the team as the second period drew on. Nedeljkovic foiled every single shot the Monsters threw his way.

During the third period, the Checkers turned up the heat and fired off an abundance of shots towards the Monsters’ net. Kivlenieks stood tall and stopped each puck which came his way. He also spent a lot of time playing behind the net and above the crease. While the fans had minor heart attacks with each bold play Kivlenieks made, Coach Eaves and the rest of the Monsters embraced his brazeness.

“Well we embrace it because we have a plan for that. if we execute that plan then hopefully we can execute some turnover. Either way if he doesn’t play it or if he does, we have a plan for both” - Head Coach Mike Eaves

Neither team was able to crack the other goaltender’s code in regulation. Overtime was imminent.

The Monsters didn’t have the best start to overtime. First, Kevin Stenlund broke his stick on the faceoff. Shortly after, the Checkers were able to fire off what could have been a deadly shot if Kivlenieks didn’t get in front of it in time.

Not even a minute into overtime, Nathan Gerbe took off down the ice towards the net. Right as he was about to shoot, Gerbe was tripped and went flying across the ice. The refs gathered together for a discussion for a few moments. When they were done, Gerbe was getting in position to take a penalty shot.

The feel on the bench was of excitement and wonder. None of the players or coaches knew what Gerbe was going to pull out of his bag of magic tricks.

“We were all wondering what move he was going to do. We’ve had time this last month to do shootouts the day before the game. So, we kind of keep track of that. Gerbs has always been in the finals. So we know he has a plethora of moves he can use and he showed us a new one tonight” - Head Coach Mike Eaves

For Gerbe, getting a chance to win a game on a penalty shot in overtime was thrilling.

“I think just having the confidence to go out and do what you wanna do. I know it’s a lot of pressure in overtime but you can’t think that way. It’s an opportunity. It’s a fun opportunity. It’s a good part of the game” - Nathan Gerbe

Gerbe did what any good captain does and locked up the win himself.

The Monsters and Checkers met again on Sunday for an afternoon romp. Head Coach Mike Eaves hoped the Monsters would allow Friday’s win to power them to success on Sunday.

“Hopefully momentum. When you win a game like this I think it solidifies and establishes the way that you need to play against really good teams.” - Head Coach Mike Eaves

Coach got his wish as the Monsters were able to shut down the Checkers at almost every turn. However, the Checkers were in control for the first seven minutes of the game. Also, the Monsters struggled to win faceoffs and pick up rebounds during those first few minutes.

“They (Charlotte Checkers) came out with a really good push the first seven minutes and we kind of weathered that. I thought we pushed back.” - Head Coach Mike Eaves

Once things started clicking for the Monsters, nothing was going to stop them from making magic.

The Monsters struck first with 8:25 left in the first period. Doyle Somerby hit Stelio Mattheos at the faceoff dot to the right of Veini Vehvilainen. Thanks to a hit from Calvin Thurkauf less than a second later, Somerby was able to take off with the puck without being followed. After a series of passes, Somerby found himself posted at the top of the crease ready to make a play. It was only a matter of seconds before Paul Bittner was able to pass Somerby the puck from below the goal line. Somerby’s smart placement allowed him to quickly release the puck into the net for the 1-0 lead over the Checkers.

With 2:26 left in the first, Andrew Peeke made a small mistake when he accidentally passed the puck to Clark Bishop while trying to clear the puck. Immediately, Bishop launched a bomb towards the net. Veini Vehvilainen didn’t even break a sweat when he snatched the puck out of the air.

Peeke made up for this snafu when he assisted Dillon Simpson’s goal, 2-0, with 47.1 left in the first. This time tossing the puck into the neutral zone worked in Peeke and the Monsters’ benefit. Once the puck hit Simpson’s stick, he took off down the ice like a bat out of hell. As he neared the net, Simpson cut through the right faceoff circle and fired the puck topshelf on Anton Forsberg.

For Peeke, it was a nice feeling to assist his partner’s goal.

“I got an assist on my d partner’s goal. So, that’s obviously pretty cool. “ - Andrew Peeke

The second started off with a bit of aggression as Stefan Matteau and Kyle Wood got into a fisticuffs behind the net 51 seconds into the period. The Checkers allowed the fight to fuel them for the next five minutes.

Steven Lorentz was able to cut the Monsters lead in half, 2-1, with a rocket of a shot that ended up trickling into the net 4:45 into the second.

With 7:45 left in the second, the Monsters extended their lead over the Checkers to 3-1. Stefan Matteau forced a turnover which allowed Peeke to power towards the net and score on the penalty kill.

“We had a really good gap in the neutral zone. Stef (Steffan Matteau) got the puck turned over and kind of gave it some free space. I think one of their d might have been changing but that ice was open. I just saw the opportunity to go ahead and took the ice. Luckily, it went in. It was a good feeling for me for sure.” - Andrew Peeke

Speaking of penalties, seven penalties tallying 20 minutes were doled out between the two teams in the second period. Due to this fact, we were able to see the special teams quite a bit.

The Monsters continued to dominate on the penalty kill. They spent most of their time in the neutral zone or in the Monsters’ offensive zone. Peeke’s shorthanded goal was just the icing on the pk cake.

“The penalty killing was good again tonight. We had the four minute kill. We just kept rolling right through that. I know that Vogues is in charge and he’s very pleased with it. “ - Head Coach Mike Eaves

On the flip side, the Monsters power play was quite unpleasant on Sunday. They didn’t take many shots and the Checkers almost scored a shortie on a breakaway. During the two-man advantage, the Monsters continued to pass the puck around the outside because the Checkers penalty killers clogged the shooting lanes.

Head Coach Mike Eaves had a simple explanation for why the power play looked lost on Sunday.

“We had new people out there because we had people in the penalty box. People were like ‘what am I doing?’. They’re understudies at that point.” - Head Coach Mike Eaves

The power play was really one of the only bad things about Sunday’s game. Even then, it still wasn’t awful.

There were no penalties in the third period. However, there were more goals.

A little over five minutes into the third period, Thurkauf launched a shot from the near faceoff dot. Paul Bittner saw it coming and swept it through Forsberg’s five-hole for the 4-1 lead.

A minute later, Justin Scott extended the Monsters lead to 5-1 by shooting the puck through Forsberg’s five-hole.

Despite being up 5-1 with over 13 minutes left in the game, the Monsters played like they were tied with the Checkers. The Monsters had no intention of giving up their four goal lead. In the end, the Checkers couldn’t match what the Monsters brought to the table. The Monsters’ willingness to compete until the horn sounded is what allowed them to sweep the Checkers this weekend.

3 Stars

Friday

1st - Nathan Gerbe (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 0a
2nd - Dillon Simpson (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 0a
3rd - Matiss Kivlenieks (Cleveland Monsters) - 21 shots faced, 20 saves, 60:42 TOI

Sunday

1st - Andrew Peeke (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 1a
2nd - Paul Bittner (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 1a
3rd - Dillon Simpson (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 0a

Monsters Lines

*the only change to the lines this weekend was the addition of Jakob Lilja to the third line. He replaced Kole Sherwood who was called up to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday morning. *

Nathan Gerbe - Kevin Stenlund - Stefan Matteau
Eric Robinson - Zac Dalpe - Marko Dano
Sam Vigneault - Justin Scott - Kole Sherwood/Jakob Lilja
Calvin Thurkauf - Ryan MacInnis - Paul Bittner

Monsters Pairs

*The only change to the Monsters pairings was Ryan Collins sliding into the third period in place of Anton Carlsson who was a healthy scratch on Sunday. *

Gabriel Carlsson - Adam Clendening
Dillon Simpson - Andrew Peeke
Anton Karlsson/Ryan Collins - Doyle Somerby

What’s Next

The Monsters head to Grand Rapids on Wednesday, November 6th to take on the Griffins at 11am.