Charlotte Checkers (5) at Cleveland Monsters (1)
The Cleveland Monsters fell to the Charlotte Checkers, 5-1, last night. The lone Monsters goal was scored by Sam Vigneault with 3:36 left in the first period. Vigneault placed himself at the top of the crease at the right time which allowed him to rebound Adam Clendening’s shot into the net. Matiss Kivlenieks played all but 34 seconds of the game stopping 37 of the 41 shots he faced.
Heading into last night’s game against the Charlotte Checkers, the Cleveland Monsters knew the cards were stacked against them. Call-ups and injuries left the Monsters with only 17 healthy skaters on their roster. This isn’t the first time in Head Coach Mike Eaves’ coaching career that he’s had to deal with a depleted team. During the 1992-93 season, the Hershey Bears dealt with the same issues as the Monsters. It got to the point where one of their only options was to have an assistant coach suit up and play. “I remember in Hershey we had an assistant coach who had been retired a year and a half,” Coach Eaves remembered fondly, “He signed a pto and played a couple of minutes. He couldn’t play the third period. A gentleman named Moe Mantha.”
Other than a few defensive breakdowns, one of which led to the Checkers first goal of the night, the Monsters seemed to play quite well together. It seemed as though the shortened bench didn’t hurt their energy and communication much. Unfortunately, halfway through the first period, Marko Dano took two big hits at center ice and immediately headed down the tunnel. “Well, we were down a man and then we lost a man in the game,” explained Coach Eaves, “Dano didn’t come back after the first period. So, we were down to 10 forwards.”
Coach Eaves didn’t look at the short bench as a set back. He looked at is an an opportunity for other players to show off their skills. “You know we had 13 guys who were either hurt or up with the big club,” Coach Eaves said, “It’s a chance. It’s an opportunity for guys to step up.”
Players like MIchael Prapavessis, Maxime Fortier, and Brett Gallant rarely see the light of game day. The past three games have been their chance to shine and show everyone what they have to offer the American Hockey League. Last night they stepped up in a pretty big way.
Prapavessis spent a lot of time screening forwards who were trying to screen Kivlenieks. This led to many rockets down the slot being broken up. Also, screening the forwards meant they weren’t able to pick up rebounds. It was an interesting play I haven’t seen often and it worked quite well for the team.
Fortier was a beast along the boards last night. His ability to gain control of the puck in a battle along the boards allowed many plays to be set up in front of the net.
When you hear the Gallant name, most people think the word enforcer. Last night, Gallant proved his skills as a forward extends beyond the role of enforcer. He screened the goalie, sat on the doorstep waiting for rebounds, and placed himself in the right place at the right time. “Well, I think Gally plays the game the way it should be in terms of his skill set,” Coach Eaves fondly explained, “He does the simple things. He does the hard things. He goes to the net as you said. He chips pucks in and pucks out. He keeps everybody honest.”
Speaking of keeping everybody honest, towards the end of the game Checkers netminder Alex Nedeljkovic slashed Kole Sherwood as the play was going up ice towards the Monsters defensive zone. Gallant was not pleased with the unnecessary slash. So,he skated into the crease and cross-checked Nedeljkovic in the chest to send the message of displeasure.
The Monsters also saw another group of players step up last night; the leadership crew. With co-captains Nathan Gerbe and Zac Dalpe out of the Monsters lineup, Clendening and Justin Scott stepped into the role of alternate captains alongside Dillon Simpson. Coach Eaves explained why the leadership transition was a smooth one stating, “When we are all healthy, they are not part of our formal leadership but they are part of our leadership core. They have a responsibility already in our group.”
Even with the short bench and new roles, the Monsters held their own against the Checkers for the first two periods of the game. It wasn’t until the final 15 minutes of play when things slightly unraveled. Fatigue and frustration began to set in. This allowed the Checkers to score three unanswered goals in the third.
The pair meet again on Monday for a noon romp at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Things will be interesting as there was no love between the two during the final stanza of play. Punches were thrown, goalies were crosschecked, and unsavory words were spewed.
1st - Julien Gauthier (Charlotte Checkers) - 1g, 0a
2nd - Clark Bishop (Charlotte Checkers) - 0g, 2a
3rd - Gustav Forsling (Charlotte Checkers) - 1g, 1a
Stefan Matteau - Justin Scott - Trey Fix-Wolansky
Marko Dano - Derek Barach - Kole Sherwood
Sam Vigneault - Maxime Fortier - Paul Bittner
Brett Gallant - no center - Brady Shaw
Anton Karlsson - Adam Clendening
Steve Johnson - Dillon Simpson
Michael Prapavessis - Doyle Somerby