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Going North: Monsters keeping pace in tough division

Checking in on the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate

AHL: OCT 16 Syracuse Crunch at Cleveland Monsters Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It has been about a month since our last check-in with the Jackets’ AHL affiliate, so it’s time to head north and take a look at how they’re holding up. The Cleveland Monsters have been treading water to start the season and are sitting in the middle of the pack as far as standings go with half of their games being decided in overtime or a shootout. Aside from about three games — including the opener and their most recent — the Monsters have been in every game with a chance to win and currently maintain a 5-3-1-3 record. If they can gain some momentum and string some wins together, this team could make some noise this year and challenge for a playoff spot.

Hanging tough

Just about a sixth into the season, the Cleveland Monsters are hanging in there with some really good teams. They are currently sitting in 4th place in the North Division and 6th in the Eastern Conference, despite having scored the least amount of goals in their division (32) and the second worst goal differential (-6). They have been able to remain in the mix in a very competitive division thanks to an impressive 7 game point streak early on which saw them go 4-0-1-2. Unfortunately, they have been on the losing end in 4 of their last 5 games.

One of the main storylines I have been following has been the slow start of Daniil Tarasov. It is still very early in the season, and too soon to be truly concerned, but Tarasov has been outplayed (by a large margin) by journeyman goaltender, Jean-Francois Berube. In five games, Tarasov is 1-2-2 with a .874 save percentage and a 3.74 GAA compared to Berube’s 3-1-2 record, .947 save percentage and 2.09 GAA. After notching his first win of the season this past weekend, maybe Tarasov can get some confidence in his game and get more comfortable in net. I still believe the growing pains will be worth it in the end. For every soft goal given up this year, there is a save of incredible athleticism like this that pulls fans off the ledge.

Unsurprisingly, it is Tyler Angle leading the team in scoring — albeit without scoring any goals — with 10 points in 12 games. He’s second on the team in shots, so look out if he can start finding the back of the net. Undrafted defenseman, Jake Christiansen, continues to impress, leading the backend in scoring with 9 points (3G, 6A) in 12 games. AHL Veterans, Brendan Gaunce and Tyler Sikura, each have 7 points on the year to pace the offense. Blue Jackets’ 2018 first-round pick, Liam Foudy, has 6 points (3G, 3A) in 12 games but has just shown some flashes of the AHL dominance we had seen previously. It’s a bit concerning that there have been a few call-ups already, and Foudy hasn’t been one of them. Hopefully he picks up his game soon and shows some more consistency. Captain Dillon Simpson is still in search of his first point and is the only player to not have found the scoresheet yet.

The Monsters are coming off a two-game split with the Rochester Americans, and head on the road for another two-game set against the Syracuse Crunch before starting a three-game series with the Toronto Marlies to wrap up the month of November.

TFW FTW!

I am thrilled to finally announce that one of my favorite prospects in the Blue Jackets’ systems is healthy and ready to play hockey again. Just yesterday, the Jackets announced Trey Fix-Wolansky was being activated off the IR and assigned to the Monsters. His recovery after a knee injury has taken longer than originally anticipated, but that is all in the past and he’s ready to roll. This will undoubtedly prove to be huge addition to a Monsters’ forward corps in need of a spark. It will most likely take some time for the diminutive, yet feisty winger to get back up to speed, but his presence in the lineup should help immediately.

Welcome back TFW!

Cleveland Rocks Night

The Monsters announced Cleveland Rocks Night on January 29, 2022, along with one of the coolest bobblehead giveaways I’ve seen in a long time. Ohio-native, Dave Grohl, is the man of honor that night, with his own bobblehead for the first 10,000 fans in attendance. This is a game that will most likely sell out (or come close to it), so make sure to get your tickets in advance and be prepared to arrive early if you want to add one of these to your collection.