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Call it a Comeback : Cleveland Monsters defeat Toronto Marlies in overtime

Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

Toronto Marlies (4) at Cleveland Monsters (5) - Overtime

The Cleveland Monsters and Toronto Marlies met for an afternoon romp in Cleveland today. Puck drop was a little over 12 hours after they finished their last meeting. Due to the short turnaround between games, the majority of the first period was void of energy from both teams. However, with 5:35 left in the first period, the scoreboard lit up like a Christmas tree when four goals were scored in the span of one minute.

The Marlies were the first on the board with 5:35 left in the opening period. Veini Vehvilainen poked the puck away from the crease in an attempt to get it out of the scoring zone. In a not so good twist of fate, the puck landed on Ben Harpur’s stick. Once the puck landed on his stick, Harpur was able to launch the puck down the slot without hesitation.

Nic Petan extended the Marlies lead over the Monsters to 2-0 with 5:07 left in the first period. His goal came in the form of a blue-line bomb.

With 4:54 left in the first, the Monsters decided to join the goal scoring fun,2-1. Andrew Peeke fired off a shot from the point which Derek Barach redirected into the net off the right post.

Just when you thought things would slow down Tanner MacMaster received the puck from behind the net and quickly fired it passt Vehvilainen’s arm. The Marlies now led the Monsters 3-1.

After allowing three goals in a minute, Coach Eaves made the executive decision to replace Vehvilainen with Matiss Kivlenieks. When you’re coaching a team in a development league, a lot of thought goes into the decision to pull a rookie from the ice. Coach Eaves touched on the kind of questions a coach has to ask themselves before taking a player out of the net for the rest of the game, “Do you leave him in and have him work through it? or is he struggling so badly you’re just going to bury him?” On top of those questions, a coach has to assess what the skaters need at that point in time. “His teammates needed to see that something was being done so we could stop the bleeding, reset the button, and get moving forward.” explained Coach Eaves.

Despite going down 3-1 in such a short amount of time, the Monsters kept trying to find ways to score on Joseph Woll. Nothing seemed to work until the final 1:01 of the first period. Ryan MacInnis passed the puck across the ice to Marko Dano who was posted in the faceoff circle. He saw Sherwood setting up shop on the doorstep and tossed the puck over. Sherwood quickly tipped the puck into the net for the goal, 3-2. “I just saw a break and just tried to drive the net. They made a good play, my two linemates there,” Sherwood said of his first goal of the night.

The Monsters sluggishly glided along during the second period. . “It was like we were in the middle stretch of a 400 meter race where you’re going down the back stretch and you’re just kind of striding out,” Eaves explained of the lackluster play.

Things started to heat up between the Monsters and Marlies in the third period. The hits got heavier, the stare downs grew more intense, and the shots were free flowing. This new found energy propelled the Monsters to tie the game at three with 10:51 left in the third period. From the faceoff circle, Stefan Matteau passed the puck to Paul Bittner who was sitting next to the net. Bittner then tossed the puck to a wide open Trey Fix-Wolansky who was waiting to fire it into the net from the slot. “It was a great pass down low and then I just tried to kind of find a soft pocket,” Fix-Wolansky said of his power play goal, “Bittsy (Bittner) made a great pass to me and I put it far side. I was happy that one went in.”

This was the second night in a row that Fix-Wolansky scored a goal while the Monsters had the man-advantage. As of late, Fix-Wolansky has been a stud on the power play. During post game, he explained that things are a bit different than the league he played in last year and you have to find ways to adjust. “You gotta get shots off quicker and make plays a little quicker,” Fix-Wolansky explained, “I’ve just been focusing on that and it’s been able to come out in the right way.”

Sherwood scored scored his second goal of the night with 9:54 left in the third to give the Monsters the 4-3 lead. This goal was scored after Sherwood energetically muscled his way through traffic before banging the puck into the net. It was very clear that Sherwood was “just feeling it”.

With 4:21 left in the third period, Kenny Agostino scored the equalizer goal for the Marlies, 4-4. This caused both teams to battle for momentum for the rest of the period forcing the game to go into overtime.

As the clock ticked down on extra stanza of play, it appeared the game was meant for a shootout. No one wanted to break and let in the final goal of the night. Matteau had the final say in the discussion. There would be no shootout. This game was ending in overtime.

With 1:59 to go in the game, Matteau picked up a rebound from Adam Clendening and popped it over Woll’s pads for the game winner. “They will tell you it wasn’t the prettiest goal. One of the first comments when they walked down the hall was ‘ya we’ll be working on that when we get back’,” Coach Eaves said of the overtime winner, “but what took over was the hockey sense and skill. In the end, they jut made a play on their own.”

Winning the weekend series against the Marlies was a big deal for the Monsters. It shone a bright light on a tough stretch and put them into a position they can continue to build on. “It’s such an emotional release for the guys to work that hard and have some kind of reward,” Coach Eaves said of the overtime win, “Because of that our record is .500. Which was our goal coming back to this brief three game stance.”

The successful weekend came at the right time for the Monsters as they are headed in the AHL All-Star break. “It’s huge heading into break,” Sherwood said of the weekend series, “Obviously we were struggling there a bit to pull away some points but we found a way. We’re going into the break pretty happy.”

3 Stars

1st - Stefan Matteau (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 1a
2nd - Kole Sherwood (Cleveland Monsters) - 2g, 0a
3rd - Matiss Kivlenieks (Cleveland Monsters) - 29 saves, 30 shots faced, 47:17 TOI

Monsters Lines

Stefan Matteau - Kevin Stenlund - Trey Fix-Wolansky
Marko Dano - Ryan MacInnis - Kole Sherwood
Calvin Thurkauf - Sam Vigneault - Paul Bittner
Brett Gallant - Derek Barach - Maxime Fortier

Monsters Pairs

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