CLEVELAND – After an 11 month hiatus, the Cleveland Monsters laced up their skates and hit the ice for a game. They even had the pleasure of playing at home in front of almost 2,000 fans against their newest rival, the Rochester Americans. Even though a typical home opener would have upwards of 9,000 fans in attendance, the fact fans were in the building at all was a nice surprise for the team. “Right away one of the assistant coaches came back and said, ‘There’s quite a few people out there,’” said Head Coach Mike Eaves. “The guys haven’t been in front of anybody. That was really a pleasant surprise.”
Despite the smaller crowd, the atmosphere was full of energy and excitement which only intensified when Nathan Gerbe scored 1:02 into the game. It was a breakaway beauty between the five-hole of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
During the first period, we also saw the new skills players added to their toolbox over the offseason. Justin Scott brought his faceoff skills to the next level by using his feet to win draws. Ryan MacInnis played both sides of the puck well; upping his defensive skills to go with his offensive prowess will make him a threat throughout the rest of the season. Then there was Kole Sherwood, who spent the first period stuck to his man like glue. This cut off shooting lanes and forced the Amerks to make thoughtless passes.
The aforementioned skills allowed players like Zac Dalpe to roam free and do what they do best: score goals. Which he did with 6:37 left in the first period while on the power play. Trey Fix-Wolansky set Dalpe up with a quick, crisp pass from along the boards. Upon reception in the slot, Dalpe wound up and fired the puck home to give the Monsters the 2-0 lead over the Amerks.
— Cleveland Monsters (@monstershockey) February 13, 2021
At the end of the first period, the Monsters headed to the locker room exuding energy and pep. Oddly enough, by the time the start of the second period rolled around, it appeared that the energy and excitement fizzled during intermission. A completely different team took the ice. During the last 40 minutes of the game, the Monsters were outscored 7-1 by the Amerks.
A lot of mistakes were made, especially by the defense. The third pairing of Jake Christiansen and Thomas Schemitsch were on the ice in some way shape or form for five of Rochester’s seven goals.
It was clear the Monsters needed a chance to reset before taking on the Grand Rapids Griffins less than 24 hours later.
According to Coach Eaves, there are some pluses to playing so quickly after a loss. “We need games, we need to get the rust off,” he explained.
Things started slowly for the Monsters on Saturday. Although, the energy they started with is the type you can maintain for an entire game.
Yet again, Brad Thiessen stood out, stopping all 12 of the shots he faced in the first. Three came one right after another at point blank range.
Things got a little chippy between the teams towards the end of the first when Tyler Spezia was knocked into the glass face first by Monsters defenseman Jake Christiansen. When he tried to skate away from the hit, Spezia held onto his stick. Then the jawing began between the Griffins bench and Christiansen. There is definitely no love lost between the two teams.
Speaking of Christiansen, he stopped a goal from happening by sliding his entire body across the ice in front of a Griffin who was trying to score. Sliding across the ice like that allowed Thiessen to breathe a bit easier and forced the Amerks to come up with an entirely different play.
The Monsters regained some sort of positive energy when Fix-Wolansky scored on the power play in the second period. The first power play unit of Dalpe, Fix-Wolansky, Schemitsch, Gerbe, and Tyler Sikura worked together to create the 200-foot play which led to the goal. There was a lot of crisp, clean passing and quick skating thrown into the mix.
Also, in the second, everyone was treated to Wyatt Newpower casually knocking Dominik Shine to the ground to prevent a goal from happening. Shine thought he would be able to sneak around the back of the net with the puck and fire it past Thiessen. Newpower clearly had other ideas.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) February 13, 2021
At the end of the second period, the Monsters and Griffins went to their corners tied at one.
Almost two minutes into the third period, the pendulum of momentum could swung in the direction of the Griffins when Riley Barber scored from above the goal line for the 2-1 lead. The Monsters had lost the faceoff on the play before and were unable to change the momentum into their favor.
Momentum stayed in the Griffins favor for most of the third period, allowing them to skate away with the 3-1 win over the Monsters.
This wasn’t exactly the start the Monsters wanted to give their fans this year. However, everything they need to work on this season were highlighted in both games. With a week until their next game, the Monsters will now be able to look at film and assess what needs to be done to have a successful 2020-21 season.