Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (0) at Cleveland Monsters (4)
The Cleveland Monsters beat the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in a resounding shutout, 4-0. This was Matiss Kivlenieks’ first shutout of the 2019-20 season. The last time Kivlenieks’ played was during the Monsters’ disastrous 7-1 loss against the Belleville Senators on Saturday, December 7th. According to Head Coach Mike Eaves, after the Monsters “left him (Kivlenieks) out to dry several times that game (Belleville)”, the older guys on the bench were bound determined to get Kivlenieks’ a shutout. “They were talking about that on the bench, the older guys,” Coach Eaves said “Lets play for Matiss here and get it done for him.”
Despite helping Kivlenieks’ earn a shutout, the Monsters struggled much of the first period. They lofted passes, struggled to get out of their own defensive zone, and killed three penalties. Four registered shots on goal and a barrage of shots that went just wide of the net were allowed during the Monsters first kill of the night. If it wasn’t for Kivlenieks’, the game could have gotten away from the Monsters at the start of it all. “Our start was not good,” Jakob Lilja stated matter of factly, “But Kivvy kept us in the game.”
Once the Monsters started making smarter plays and better passes there was no stopping them. “Then we scored in good situation,” said Lilja, “We just kept going and shut it down from there.”
With 4:20 left in the first period, Kevin Stenlund gave the Monsters the 1-0 lead. Nathan Gerbe set Markus Hannikainen up with a nice shot in front of the net. Casey DeSmith managed to foil the goal attempt with his pads. The Monsters were then able to get the puck off to Stefan Matteau who set Stenlund up with a one-timer slapper from near the goal line.
This goal extended both Gerbe’s and Stenlund’s point streaks. Gerbe is riding a seven-game point streak. While, Stenlund is on a 10 game point streak which has him tied for third with David Jones for the longest streak in Monsters’ franchise history. Despite not scoring a point last night, Hannikainen has also had a strong showing on the first line notching five points over the past six games.
Coach Eaves has been thoroughly impressed with the first line’s production. “They’re fun to watch. You’ve got three guys that have a high level of skill,” explained Coach Eaves, “Their compete level is very high. When they’re on a roll, they’re as good as anybody we’ve seen in the American Hockey League.”
Jakob Lilja joined the point scoring fun by scoring the Monsters’ second and third goals of the night.
With 9:23 left in the second period, Justin Scott fired a shot straight into DeSmith’s pads. Lilja scooped up the rebound before squeaking it between the post and DeSmith for the 2-0 lead. “The first one was just a rebound,” explained Lilja, “I thought I put it in. I had a second chance shot it at a bad angle and it went in somehow”
Lilja scored his second of the night 10:58 into the third period when he went one-on-one with DeSmith. He was able to pop the puck right through DeSmith’s five-hole to give the Monsters the 3-0 lead.
The beginning of Lilja’s time with the Monsters was quite rough. He was slow and couldn’t get a point to save his life. “I had a tough start. I couldn’t score. I couldn’t put up some points. Obviously, that brings you down a bit,” Lilja said of his slow start. Despite finally putting points on the score sheet, Lilja is not completely happy with the way things are going in Cleveland. Points are good but he would rather see the team win on a consistent basis. “For myself, it’s been better,” Lilja explained, “As a team, we’ve been losing so it could always be better.”
Part of the Monsters’ woes stem from both special teams units being on the ice for more than half the game. When asked how you can keep fresh legs when you’re constantly on the ice in those situations, Coach Eaves quickly and simply responded with “It’s hard.” He went on to explain a lot of the penalties they’ve taken were from accidentally clipping someone while trying to lift their stick or inadvertently tripping people while getting their blade on the puck. Even those these penalties were not intentional, Coach Eaves wants to tighten them up a bit more, “We’ll always talk about that because I think we want to be a smart hockey team. We want to control the penalties we can.”
Luckily, for the Monsters, penalties didn’t hurt their ability to score last night. With 50.1 seconds left in the game, Marko Dano sealed the deal with an empty net goal to give the Monsters the 4-0 win over the Penguins.
1st - Matiss Kivlenieks (Cleveland Monsters) - 23 saves, 23 shots faced, 59:43 TOI
2nd - Jakob Lilja (Cleveland Monsters) - 2g, 0a
3rd - Kevin Stenlund (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 0a
Nathan Gerbe - Kevin Stenlund - Markus Hannikainen
Stefan Matteau - Ryan MacInnis - Marko Dano
Jakob Lilja - Justin Scott - Calvin Thurkauf
Sam Vigneault - Derek Barach - Trey Fix-Wolansky
Gabriel Carlsson - Adam Clendening
Dillon Simpson - Jason Binkley
Anton Karlsson - Doyle Somerby