Cleveland Monsters (3) at Syracuse Crunch (6)
The Cleveland Monsters headed into last night’s game looking for a win against the Syracuse Crunch. A win over the second-place team in the division would have been huge.
Things started out quite well for the Monsters.
Miles Koules put the Monsters on the board first 6:20 into the game. Sam Vigneault was trying to skate around Hunter Labrie so he could fire off a shot. When Vigneault realized Labrie wasn’t going to give up, he tossed the puck to Maxime Fortier. Unfortunately, the puck rolled through Fortier’s legs. Have no fear! Koules flew in at the right time, wound up, and slammed the puck home for the goal.
With 4:10 to play in the first, the Monsters extended their lead over the Crunch, 2-0. Ryan MacInnis forced a turnover behind the net which led to Vitaly Abramov being able to sneak across the goal line and chip the puck into the net from the top of the crease.
The Monsters held all of the momentum in their hands. BUT THEN the tide changed. Ryan Collins took a cross-checking penalty with 3:40 to play in the first. Twenty-four seconds into the Monsters penalty kill, Cameron Gaunce one-timed a shot topshelf to put the Crunch within one of the Monsters.
The Crunch held all the momentum for the rest of the first.
As is tradition for the 2018-19 season, the second period was not a good one for the Monsters.
Almost four minutes into the second, the Crunch tied the game at two.
Fortier accidentally passed the puck to Gabriel Dumont who immediately fired it towards the net. Taylor Raddysh picked up the rebound, fell to his knees, and fired it into the side of the net Jean-Francois Berube had left wide open.
A minute and a half later, Gaunce fired a rocket of a shot from the top of the faceoff dot through Berube’s five-hole to extend the Crunch’s lead to 3-2.
With a little under nine to play in the second, Cal Foote extended the lead over the Monsters to 4-2.
The third period was a little bit better for the Monsters. Just a little bit.
The Monsters had a five-on-three 1:25 into the final stanza of play. They were unable to make anything positive happen with the man advantage. At one point, it seemed as though the Monsters were on the penalty kill instead of the power play.
Almost seven minutes into the third, Berube left the net wide open allowing Carter Verhaege to skate past Abramov and fire the puck into the open net.
This goal felt like a dagger to the heart but there was still hope for a Monsters win.
Hope came in the form of Koules who was able to cut the Crunch’s lead in half with a little under 10 minutes to play.
After getting knocked to the ground, Koules found a way to clear the puck from behind the net. Michael Prapavessis raced towards the corner scooping up the puck and cleared it away from the Crunch defense. Koules quickly raced towards the puck. Upon retrieval, he patiently held onto the puck until the play cleared up allowing him a clear lane to fire the puck into the net.
Koules was so excited to be back in the lineup he scored TWO goals!— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) February 3, 2019
This one might be my favorite. After getting knocked to the ground, he managed to find a way to clear the puck from behind the net.
Remember kids, grinding hard leads to goals. #CLEMonsters @mileskoules pic.twitter.com/420ZiI8kWL
Unfortunately, hope was fleeting for the Monsters. With 2:45 left in the game, Adam Clendening got into a footrace with Dumont. However, Clendening wasn’t fast enough to stop Dumont from firing into the empty net to give the Crunch the 6-3 win over the Monsters.
With this loss, the Monsters sit squarely in fifth place in the North with 47 points and a .522 win percentage. The battle for a playoff spot is tight in the division. Any length of win-streak from the Monsters will be helpful as the season winds down.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Monsters take on the Charlotte Checkers who so happen to be the number one team in the league. Walking away from this contest with four points will prove the Monsters have what it takes to be a playoff contender.
1st – Cameron Gaunce (2g, 0a)
2nd – Cal Foote (1g, 1a)
3rd – Connor Ingram (33 shots faced, 30 saves, 59:58 TOI)
The Monsters head to Charlotte to take on the Checkers in back-to-back games on February 5th and 6th.