Cleveland Monsters (2) at Grand Rapids Griffins (4)
The Cleveland Monsters came into tonight’s game looking to win two in a row against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Three points stand in the way of the seventh place Monsters from bumping into the final playoff spot in the North division. So, every out of division win is huge in their book.
The first five minutes of tonight’s tilt against the Griffins held barely any scoring chances. It also didn’t help that they struggled to win faceoffs putting momentum squarely in the Griffins hands multiple times.
Speaking of struggling, the Monsters’ first penalty kill was dominated by the Griffins. If it wasn’t for Veini Vehvilainen’s quick saves and smooth moves across the crease, the Griffins would have a power play goal under their belt within the first 10 minutes of the game. On the flip side, the Monsters first power play of the night looked lively. This was partially because Adam Clendening one-timed three shots towards the net and set up countless plays during the man advantage.
Patrick Nagle all but stood on his head during the first two minutes of the second period to prevent the Monsters from scoring. However, on player on the Monsters was not willing to give up so easily. A little under three minutes into the second period, Calvin Thurkauf muscled around Michael Rasmussen before firing off a shot from the bottom of the faceoff circle. It banged off the post into the net for the 1-0 Monsters lead.
Rasmussen learned a very important lesson on this play. If you’re trying to stop someone from getting into scoring position, you cannot let up until both of you are below the goal line. Had Rasmussen applied pressure all the way until the end, Thurkauf would have been forced to skate around back with the puck instead of backhanding it into the net.
Vehvilainen put his yoga moves on display 5:30 into the second period. The Monsters had a breakdown in the defensive zone causing the puck to move slowly towards the goal line behind the Monsters’ netminder. Vehvilainen did a weird back bend which put him in position to wipe the puck out of the crease.
With 5:29 left in the second period, the Griffins tied that game at one. As Chase Pearson headed towards the net, he attempted to swipe the puck across the ice to a teammate. Instead, the puck bounced off Steve Johnson’s leg and landed directly on Jarid Lukosevicius’ stick. Due to Lukosevicius’ placement in the slot, he was able to quickly launch it into the net.
Not even a full minute later, the Griffins took the 2-1 lead over the Monsters. Evgeny Svechnikov fired one from near the top of the slot while Kole Sherwood watched the play unfold. Once Markus Hannikainen saw te puck heading towards Svechnikov, he raced to knock the puck out of scoring position. He was just a hair too slow. By the time Hannikainen reached Svechnikov, the puck was already on the way to the net.
Sherwood made up for this moment by tying the score at two 4:35 into the third period. A nice feed by Hannikainen from across the ice allowed the play to unfold into something beautiful.
Elson extended the Griffins lead over the Monsters to 3-2 with 1:23 left in the game. It was a beautiful back hander down the slot.
With one minute to play in the game, Head Coach Mike Eaves pulled Vehvilainen for the extra attacker. The Monsters were able to hold the Griffins off for 50 seconds. WIth 10 seconds left, Joe Veleno scored a wrap around empty net goal. It didn’t come easy for him though. Johnson chased Veleno down forcing him to go around the back of the net. Instead of following Veleno, Johnson lept across the crease in an attempt to close up as much of the net as possible. Despite Johnson’s best effort, Veleno was able to fire the puck into the net to seal the 4-2 win over the Monsters.
Next up for the Monsters is a 6pm tilt against the Rockford IceHogs on Saturday evening.
1st - Turner Elsone (Grand Rapids Griffins) - 1g, 0a
2nd - Evgeny Svechnikov (Grand Rapids Griffins) - 1g, 0a
3rd - Calvin Thurkauf (Cleveland Monsters) - 1g, 0a
Stefan Matteau - Ryan MacInnis - Trey Fix-Wolansky
Markus Hannikainen - Derek Barach - Kole Sherwood
Paul Bittner - Calvin Thurkauf - Maxime Fortier
Bryan Moore - Sam Vigneault - Brett Gallant
Steve Johnson - Adam Clendening
Michael Prapavessis - Dillon Simpson
Anton Karlsson - Doyle Somerby