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Going North: Monsters come roaring out of the gates with an opening series sweep

Cleveland scored in bunches to take four points from Syracuse

AHL: OCT 15 Syracuse Crunch at Cleveland Monsters Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s still very early in the season for a Monsters roundup, but with a few big wins and some big news it just felt appropriate. The Monsters look to bounce back from a very disappointing season last year that saw them finish dead last in their division. A new bench boss and some new faces have the Monsters off to a quick start and playing with some confidence as they start their journey back to the Calder Cup playoffs.

Taking it to the Bank

Opposite of their parent club, the Cleveland Monsters leapt out of the gate this year with a pair of victories in their opening weekend series. For a team who’s season was over quite early last year, getting all four points to begin the year should be a big confidence boost. Points in the bank are huge for any team regardless of league, but are crucial in the AHL where the lineup can change at a moment’s notice. Whether it is the inevitable injuries that occur during a season, or call-ups to the NHL, the team as constructed now could look vastly different than the team that will be clawing for points come January. The Monsters will need to accrue all the points they can while they have a full strength and offensively gifted roster.

What makes the weekend series sweep so much more sweet was that it came against the Syracuse Crunch who have always been a very competitive team and thorn in the Monsters’ side. Grabbing all 4 points from the Crunch made a statement considering the Monster finished 22 points behind Syracuse in the standings last year.

High Scoring Affairs

Cleveland won a couple of barn-burners this past weekend via the shootout. A large opening night crowd was treated to a back-and-forth matchup that saw multiple lead changes and nearly 75 shots on goal. Kirill Marchenko sent the crowd into a frenzy just 26 seconds into the game for the Monsters’ first goal of the season. It was off to the races from there, with 9 more goals scored in the remaining 59:34. After a scoreless overtime, it was Cole Fonstad who scored the game winner in shootout. Fonstad isn’t on the Blue Jackets radar, but will for sure have a big role in any success the Monsters have this year.

Saturday afternoon provided more of the same high-scoring hockey. The Monsters once again won in a shootout by a final score of 5-4. Both Kirill Marchenko and Emil Bemstrom each scored twice, with Bemmer scoring the lone goal in the shootout capping off a strong weekend. Looks like both of these guys are doing their best to get called back up to the NHL.

The big names showed up in the first two games of the season for Cleveland. Marchenko —who may not be long for Cleveland — paced the Monsters offense with 4 points in 2 games (3G, 1A). Trey Fix-Wolansky, who in my opinion, seems to have been somewhat forgotten among Jackets fans also posted 4 points in those 2 games with a goal and three assists. Emil Bemstrom (2G, 1A) and Brendan Gaunce (3 assists) round out the top scorers for Cleveland with 3 points in 2 games.

The Cleveland Monsters will look to retain that momentum as they hit the road for the longest road trip of the year, starting this Friday against the Utica Comets. Their Saturday evening tilt against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is the AHLtv free game of the week for anybody with the app.

Going Outside

In case you missed it, there was some big news announced last week with the Monsters being awarded an outdoor game at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland. The Monsters have played an outdoor game in the past on the road, so this will mark the first ever professional outdoor hockey game in Ohio. It’s a shame that the Jackets minor league team will be the team to achieve this feat, but selfishly I’m excited since it is a lot closer to home and one I will definitely be in attendance for. Tickets have recently gone on sale for the March 4th matchup against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Tickets start at only $10, and only certain sections of the lower level will be open, so I’d expect close to a sellout, so I’d get tickets early.

Surprisingly, this won’t be the only outdoor hockey game played in Cleveland this winter. The Ohio State Men’s Hockey team will also be playing against rival Michigan in the “Faceoff on the Lake” on February 18th, also at First Energy Stadium.

Northeast Ohio hockey fans are going to be spoiled with outdoor games in 2023! Hopefully we will see a bunch of you there!