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Veini Vehvilainen stands tall in Cleveland Monsters 2-1 loss to the Charlotte Checkers

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Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

Cleveland Monsters (1) at Charlotte Checkers (2)

After getting outscored by the Laval Rocket 10-3 over two games last weekend, the Cleveland Monsters headed to Charlotte in hopes of taking down the Checkers.

Within minutes of puck drop, the Monsters had a scoring chance. For most teams, a scoring chance in the opening minutes of a tilt isn't typically something to write home about. In the case of a tired and depleted Monsters roster, scoring chances of the bat are a big thing. A team on a skid cultivating positive momentum when the puck drops is a literal game changer.

The first period was full of momentum shifts between the two squads due to the Monsters three power plays and the Checkers two goals.

Lindsay Sparks was tripped 3:46 into the first period giving the Monsters their first power play of the night. Once the official's hand went up, Veini Vehvilainen left the net for the extra attacker before the whistle blew signifying the end of even strength play. Due to the Monsters composing multiple plays in an attempt to score, it took the Checkers almost a minute to touch the puck.

The Monsters had complete control of momentum during their first power play. Unfortunately, with 1:14 left in the power play Dano was collared for highsticking. At the start of 4-on-4 hockey, Clendening came up with a big save when he anticipated a shot from the Checkers allowing him to throw his body across the ice in front of the puck. A few moments later, Max McCormick put the Checkers on the board. It was the first shot Vehvilainen faced in the game. In case you were wondering, it took the Checkers 5:42 to register their first shot of the night.

When Dano finally left the box, Stelio Mattheos extended the Checkers lead over the Monsters to 2-0.

The Monsters headed back to the power play with 9:39 left in the first period due to an interference call. Clendening spent the power play setting up Trey Fix-wolansky with one timers from near the top of the left faceoff circle. It threw the Checkers for a loop because they are used to Clendening slapping shots from the point on the power play not setting shots up. The Monsters were unable to score on their second power play. However, they were able to craft a few nice looking plays. Also of note, this was the second penalty Lindsay Sparks was able to draw last night.

Roland Mckeown was called for tripping sending the Monsters to their third power play of the evening with 6:44 to play in the first. On this power play, we saw Cleveland mix things up a bit by having Clendening set up Dillon Simpson and Derek Barach for one-timers. Both passes came from down low. Anywhere near the goal line is not typically where Clendening hangs out on the pp.

With 2:41 left in the first period, Anton Karlsson set Branden Troock up with a beauty of a shot. Justin Scott was able to knock it into the net. Immediately, the officials waved the goal off. The Monsters lobbied for the officials to review the play. The officials huddled together and when they broke up they signified that the call on the ice would stand; no goal.

Vehvilainen came up with a huge save to close out the first period. The net was completely empty due to Vehvilainen being well outside of the crease. He launched his body backwards and kicked out his left pad the moment the Checkers launched the puck near the net.

Monsters headed to the kill 1:10 into the second period thanks to Justin Scott getting called for hooking. Vehvilainen stuffed two one timers on the kill. He didn’t even flinch. He just grabbed the puck and held onto it like it was “the one ring”. You could almost here him say “my precious” to the puck. Not long after, Vehvilainen proceeded to make three huge saves in a row. The defense broke down a bit on that last sequence and VV stood tall.

The Monsters headed back on the kill with 7:58 left in the second period. The Monsters spent this time clogging the lanes making it difficult for the Checkers to get a good shot on net during the pk. It was a short lived kill as Steven Lorentz was called for high sticking.

During the first two minutes of the third period, the Monsters started skating hard while composing plays. However, their passes were a hair off for the rest of the game.

A successful power play for the Monsters came with 12:09 to play in the game. Trey Fix-Wolansky fired off a wicked wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle to cut the Checkers lead in half, 2-1.

For the rest of the game, Vehvilainen put on a show for the crowd. Dropped to the slips His energy and confidence powered the Monsters to a strong finish.

In the end it was Keith Kincaid who prevented the Monsters from scoring the tying goal. He blocked a barrage of shots in the final 15 seconds of the game. Most of which came from Fix-Wolansky.

The two teams meet again on Wednesday at 7pm.

3 Stars

1st - Keith Kincaid (Charlotte Checkers) - 29 saves, 30 shots faced, 59:54 TOI
2nd - Stelio Mattheos (Charlotte Checkers) - 1g, 0a
3rd - Veini Vehvilainen (Cleveland Monsters) - 31 saves, 33 shots faced, 57:37 TOI

Monsters Lines

Marko Dano - Sam Vigneault - Trey Fix-Wolansky
Calvin Thurkauf - Justin Scott - Branden Troock
Paul Bittner - Derek Barach - Kole Sherwood
Bryan Moore - Lindsay Sparks - Brett Gallant

Monsters Pairs

Steven Johnson - Adam Clendening
Michael Prapavessis - Dillon Simpson
Anton Karlsson - Doyle Somerby