Charlotte Checkers (2) at Cleveland Monsters (1)
Another game, another night, another must win scenario for the Cleveland Monsters. After an overtime loss to the number one team in the league, the Charlotte Checkers, the Monsters were looking to put space between them and the Belleville Senators in the standings.
Things got hot and heavy fast. Thirty-five seconds into the game there was a hug scuffle in the corner after Justin Scott was boarded. The early power play fired the Monsters up a bit. Ryan MacInnis was the most fired up in those first few minutes of the game. He fired off shot after shot but Dustin Tokarski didn’t falter.
Alex Broadhurst took a tripping penalty 9:25 into the period. To call the Monsters’ first penalty kill shaky would be putting it lightly. During the first 20 seconds of the kill, the Checkers managed to register one shot on goal and a shot which flew slightly high of the net. This was pretty much the scene for the rest of the Monsters penalty kill. To make matters worse, the Checkers were able to get on the board with 30 seconds left in the Broadhurst penalty. A scramble in front of the net didn’t allow Thiessen a chance to close his five-hole.
Shortly after the Checkers’ goal, Brett Gallant and Zack Stortini dropped the gloves in an epic battle between giants. Gallant took a few heavy hits to the face and forehead during the fight. However, when push came to shove, Gallant dropped Stortini to the ice for the win.
The fight lit a bigger fire under the Monsters’ rear. They spent the rest of the period assaulting Tokarski with shots. On the other side of things, the Checkers were already in playoff form throwing their bodies in front of pucks like a bodyguard throwing his body in front of a bullet.
Not even three minutes into the second period, the Monsters headed to the penalty kill. Almost immediately, the Checkers fired off a few shots that made Brad Thiessen make highlight reel style saves. Yet again, MacInnis was the bright shining star on the kill. He set up plays and foiled the opposition. Tokarski was unshakable. Nothing was going to get past him.
Tomas Jurco got a lucky bounce, literally, to give the Checkers the 2-0 lead 7:03 into the second period. Shortly after Jurco’s goal, Gallant and Stortini tried to fight each other again. The refs quickly put a stop to it.
With 3:09 left in the second, the Monsters cut the Checkers’ lead in half, 2-1. Derek Barach was able to grab a piece of Garret Cockerill’s shot before it flew into the net.
The third period started with a power play for the Monsters. During the power play, there was a few times the Monsters had a great chance at rushing the net BUT they decided to get fancy and do some neat passes instead.
As time wound down on the game, the Monsters kicked it into high gear. They knew playoffs were at stake. Unfortunately, the Checkers were able to hold off the Monsters. When the horn sounded the Monsters were in the same place as they were when they started the game. With one exception, the Senators now hold partial control over the Monsters’ playoff destiny. Even though the Monsters have one game left and the Senators have two, there are an abundance of ways the Monsters could clinch or be eliminated. This playoff race is going to come down to the wire.
Despite the loss, the message in post game presser from Head Coach John Madden was just how proud he is of the team.
“Just one of the nights where the puck wouldn’t go in the net for us. We screened them. We had tips. Rebounds. Point blank shots. Justin Scott had one that trickled through but just missed the net. Overall it was just one of those nights. I’m proud of the guys. They played well. They played hard. We’ll see what happen.” - Head Coach John Madden
Honestly, the Monsters should be proud of the way they played against the number one team in the league. There was never a moment where the Monsters where not on the same level as the Checkers.
Here’s to hopefully playing hockey in June.
1st – Dustin Tokarski (41 shots faced, 40 saves, 60:00 TOI)
2nd – Tomas Jurco (1g, 0a)
3rd – Derek Barach (1g, 0a)
The Monsters close their season in Toronto against the Marlies on Sunday, April 14th at 4pm.
Here’s hoping Sunday won’t be the last game of the season.