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Going North: Monsters resume play after Covid cancellations

Monsters slip to 5th place in the division

AHL: DEC 06 Grand Rapids Griffins at Cleveland Monsters Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s already been a month since we’ve last checked in on the Cleveland Monsters. Not much has changed considering the Monsters just resumed play last week after a layoff of almost two weeks. However, in that time, the Monsters have fallen to 5th place in the division, behind Utica, Rochester, Toronto and Laval. Cleveland’s current record is 11-9-4-3, which is good for a .537 points percentage. Their overtime woes are finally coming back to haunt them, considering that 40% of their games have gone beyond regulation. They have left 7 points on the table with a 4-4-3 record in games decided in OT. Those are crucial points for a team on the bubble, fighting to maintain position in a tight division.

Covid Cancellations

If you happened to read last month’s update, you’d recall I mentioned the Monsters were entering a crucial stretch of games. Well it turns out that most of those games never actually happened. Like their big brothers in the NHL, the AHL also had their own cluster of Covid outbreaks and were forced to cancel a number of games. The Monsters have only played 4 out of their last 11 scheduled games.

Those games were recently rescheduled, with the games being spread out over the next few months. The AHL extended the season to April 30th to accommodate all of the revised schedules. The league still plans to have the playoffs wrapped up and Calder Cup awarded by the end of June.

Shorthanded Monsters

The Monsters have been forced to make their own roster moves recently with the implementation of Taxi Squads for the big clubs. They have been without their usual goaltending tandem of J.F. Berube (Taxi Squad) and Daniil Tarasov (injury). They have been rotating between CBJ Taxi Squad legend, Cam Johnson, and Jet Greaves, both of whom are ECHL call-ups. Cam Johnson has been sharp in his two appearances, with a 1-0-1 record and a .933 sv%.

Roster regulars Liam Foudy and Jake Christiansen have also been out of the lineup while they have been up with Columbus. Christiansen impressed Jackets head coach Brad Larsen in his NHL debut, but he has since been sent back to Cleveland to get more ice time. Foudy has yet to make his season debut, but with the Jackets offensive struggles as of late (excluding last night’s 6-0 win over Carolina), it may only be a matter of time. The Monsters did get a bolster on their backend, when the Blue Jackets finally sent Scott Harrington through waivers to get him on the ice in Cleveland. In six games, he has yet to register a point and is a -1 in his first AHL action since the 2016-17 season. It’s also worth noting that Kevin Stenlund has been quietly consistent this year for the Monsters. He now has 15 points in 20 games this season, playing at a .75 ppg clip. I’ve always been a big fan of Stens, and would like to see him get some more games with the CBJ after the NHL trade deadline passes and the Blue Jackets presumably open a few roster spots. Size is one skill that can’t be taught, and 6’4”, right-handed centers don’t grow on trees and in my opinion, we never got to see enough of the big Swede. I was certain the Kraken were going to pick him up in the expansion draft, but was thankful to see him spared.

TFW Update

I figured I’d just make this a part of my Monsters update considering I’ve gushed over him in every post so far. Fix-Wolansky continues to make his case for a call-up to the Blue Jackets by being the dynamic player that always finds himself in the middle of the action and can make something out of nothing.

Since our last recap, TFW has 3 points (1G, 2A) in his last 4 games. Including this clutch game winner against the Grand Rapids Griffins just 14 seconds into overtime.

In those four games Fix-Wolansky has 13 shots on net. There was only one game in which he had less than 4 shots on net. There are more than a couple Blue Jacket players who could take some notes from Trey.

Up Next

So about that crucial stretch I keep talking about? Yeah, that begins tonight when the Monsters begin a weekend back-to-back against the Rockford Icehogs on the road. The Rockhogs are in a similar boat as the Monsters, fighting to keep their place in their own crowded division. In the next two weeks, the Cleveland Monsters play 10 games thanks to a couple of those rescheduled games.

Let’s go Monsters!