ROCKFORD, Ill. – Leading into Monday, the Cleveland Monsters and Rockford IceHogs were the only Central Division teams to not have a win under their belt this season. Both teams have struggled offensively, but you wouldn’t guess that based on the five goals scored in the first period of Monday’s game.
Monsters captain Zac Dalpe started the onslaught of goals by scoring twice before the five minute mark of the game. His goals came 11 seconds apart.
A poke check by Adam Helewka near center ice set Dalpe’s first goal in motion. The puck flew into the corners and then bounced behind the Monsters’ net where Wyatt Newpower would pick it up. Once he hit the top of the left faceoff circle, Newpower tossed the puck over to Tyler Sikura along the boards at the blue line. Sikura sped through the neutral zone at top speed and raced towards the net like his mom was calling him home for dinner. Right before the goal line, Sikura locked eyes with Dalpe and passed the puck across the ice. Dalpe then popped the puck into the net.
The play leading up to Dalpe’s second goal started with a faceoff win by none other than Dalpe himself. Off the draw, Sikura jumped on the puck that was trickling backwards towards the open ice. Sikura pushed the puck towards Thomas Schemitsch, who dropped back before sending the puck back. A little bit of fancy stick work was put on display before Sikura passed the puck to Trey Fix-Wolansky gliding through the neutral zone. Fix-Wolansky saw an open lane down the slot and took off. At the last possible second, he tossed the puck to his left to Dalpe. From the bottom of the faceoff circle, Dalpe wound up and genuflected before launching the puck into the net.
Carson Meyer kept the fun going by scoring his first professional goal 6:24 into the game to give the Monsters the 3-0 lead. It came courtesy of a stretch pass from Newpower that Meyer took off with before firing the puck topshelf.
— Greg Boysen (@GregBoysen) February 23, 2021
After an unfortunate goalie move by Brad Thiessen, the IceHogs were able to get on the board 8:04 into the first period. Thiessen left the crease and went behind the net to retrieve a previously cleared puck. Nothing dangerous of fancy, just a simple play behind the net. However, Thiessen fumbled the puck a bit, giving Mitchell Fossier the time to race behind the net to force a turnover. As Fossier released the puck towards Chris Wilkie, Thiessen frantically raced towards the front of the net. He would miss closing up the net in time to stop Wilkie from scoring.
With 9:07 left in the first period, MacKenzie Entwistle forced a turnover and took the puck on a trip behind the net before handing it off to Brad Morrison. Thiessen wasn’t able to get his glove up in time to prevent the impending snipe from entering the net.
At the end of the second, the Monsters led the IceHogs 3-2, but control of the game was leaning towards Rockford. Yet, by the time the clock hit the halfway point, it was clear the Monsters were controlling the game.
Three goals were scored by the Monsters in the span of six minutes during the second period, and they were scored all three ways: on the power play, shorthanded, and five-on-five.
A little over four and a half minutes into the second, Fix-Wolansky was tripped by Alec Regula. He took that personally and scored on the second play of the power play. Meyer scored his second goal of the night with 14:32 left in the second. It was a point blank shot that Rockford netminder Matt Tomkins thought he stopped, but it casually rolled into the net, giving the Monsters the 5-2 lead. Then, 10:28 into the period and on the penalty kill, Justin Scott forced a turnover and took off down the ice before backhanding the puck into the net.
When the IceHogs started the third period, rookie Cale Morris was between the pipes. This was the boost the IceHogs needed. Nine seconds into the period, Fossier took advantage of a defensive breakdown and scored, cutting the Monsters lead in half, 6-3.
Morris spent the period destroying the Monsters’ dreams of scoring another goal. Well, not everyone’s dreams. With 2:53 to play in the game, Nathan Gerbe one-timed a shot into the net to make it 7-3 for the Monsters. The IceHogs tried to rally, but the horn blew before they could create any sort of magic.
After a stellar third period on Monday night, Morris earned the starting netminder role on Tuesday. Monsters’ goaltender Veini Vehvilainen also started for the first time this season. Both goaltenders put on a show during the first period, sliding post-to-post closing up gaps and whacking pucks out of the air.
One cause for concern in the first was the way the defense allowed Evan Barratt and Garrett Mitchell to sit atop the crease screening the goalie and waiting for rebounds. Brett Gallant had enough of those shenanigans and pushed Mitchell into the net with 1:58 left in the first.
The first goal of the evening came 6:26 into the second period during a Monsters power play. Sikura tried to score three times before the hockey gods allowed one to sneak through. If we are going to be specific here, Cole Moberg scored this goal on his own team when the puck bounced off his pad into the net. Barratt tied the game at one with 4:08 left in the second on…wait for it…a rebound goal from the top of the crease.
Don’t worry, the Monsters learned their lesson. Later in the period, Dillon Simpson let Barratt know making any sort of play for the crease would be unacceptable.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) February 24, 2021
With 1:33 left in the second, tempers flared between the two squads. Thomas Schemitsch did not like the fact John Quenneville snowed Vehvilainen. He shoved Quenneville and the gloves went flying. The fight ended when Quenneville slammed Schemitsch into the net, knocking it off its moorings.
The Monsters took the 2-1 lead thanks to an Evan Polei rebound goal with 7:33 left to play. Unfortunately for the Monsters, Polei’s goal fired up the IceHogs enough to give them the strength to score two goals within minutes of each other. After those two goals, the Monsters just couldn’t get the momentum in their favor and fell to the IceHogs, 3-2.
Now there are a grand total of zero teams without a win in the Central Division.