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The pieces seem to be in place, but Lake Erie can’t complete the puzzle

Last week we made a point of reminding you that the Lake Erie Monsters were rolling right along and winning at an impressive clip.

That, of course, was the hockey gods’ cue to step in and curse the Monsters, who subsequently managed to secure only one of six available points in three games. Next time we should probably keep our mouth shut.

Lake Erie is 15-8-2-2, but the Monsters have been decidedly mediocre of late despite having what should be a good concentration of AHL talent on the roster. Losing Justin Falk on recall to the Blue Jackets hurt a bit, but you get the feeling the team is simply in a bit of a funk right now, which happens over the course of a 76-game season.

In any event, here’s a quick summary of last week’s games, the first of which was played at home while the two against Charlotte were contested in North Carolina:

Wednesday, December 16
Grand Rapids Griffins 3, Lake Erie 2

In what has been a quick and impressive turnaround, Grand Rapids has gone from league doormat to buzz saw in the space of just a few weeks. The Griffins never trailed in this one and withstood a late Monsters rally to win their 12th consecutive game (the streak currently stands at 14 games).

Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand tallied the goals for Lake Erie, both in even-strength situations. Bjorkstrand’s goal was his second in as many games and second in three games since returning from injury.

The Monsters, as they tend to do, outshot the Griffins by a wide margin, 49-28 (they’re third in the AHL in shots per game). Anton Forsberg took the loss in goal, stopping 25 pucks along the way.

Saturday, December 19
Charlotte Checkers 4, Lake Erie 1

This was one of those games in which one short span of time decided the whole thing. One very short span of time, as it turned out.

The teams were locked in a scoreless tie midway through the second period when the Checkers went off for three goals in just 77 seconds one on the power play, two in 5-on-5 play. One of those goals was scored by Brody Sutter, who fits into the Sutter Dynasty as the son of Duane. He has good size (6-5, 203) but has so far been a career minor-leaguer.

That three-goal burst was enough to end Forsberg’s night, as he was replaced by veteran AHL’er Brad Thiessen in the Monsters’ net. Thiessen would stop all nine shots he faced, with the Checkers adding an empty netter near the end to produce the final score.

Sunday, December 20
Charlotte Checkers 4, Lake Erie 3 (OT)

The Monsters battled back from 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to tie things in the third period on T.J. Tynan’s first goal of the year, but Charlotte buried one three minutes into the overtime session to grab the extra point.

Lake Erie had a few decent chances in OT, including Bjorkstrand’s shot off the outside of the post and a quick rush by Dean Kukan that resulted in Kukan colliding hard with the rear boards. Kukan had to be helped off the ice, so here’s hoping he’s all right.

Tynan has been leading the Monsters in scoring all season and came into the game with 17 assists, but he had yet to put a puck in the net himself until burying one at the 10:14 mark of the third to knot the score at 3. Anderson’s seventh and Daniel Zaar’s eighth were the other two Lake Erie goals. Michael Paliotta registered two assists.

It was the Monsters’ fifth straight road loss, with Forsberg taking the ‘L’ less than 24 hours after being pulled in Saturday night’s defeat.


The Monsters have a pair of games this weekend against Grand Rapids at Quicken Loans Arena. Saturday’s contest starts at 7 p.m., while Sunday will feature a rare 5 p.m. puck drop. The Griffins don’t play between now and Saturday, so they will carry their 14-game winning streak into the short series. The Monsters will need to play the kind of relentless, fast-skating game that has produced so well for them this season if they want to put an end to Grand Rapids’ winning ways.