HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Another weekend, another weird lineup for the Cleveland Monsters.
The last time the Monsters played, they fielded a team of nine forwards and five defenders against the Rockford IceHogs. This past weekend, they played both games against the Chicago Wolves with 10 forwards and eight defensemen. Defenders Connor McDonald and Dillon Simpson played on the fourth line for the Monsters in this crazy, mixed up lineup.
Due to the amount of new faces on the Monsters roster, some Chicago Wolves players had to do their research on them before the game. “I looked at their lines and thought ‘It’s a bunch of new guys’ and I had no idea who they were before the game. I had to look online and see what their strengths and weaknesses were,” explained Frederic Allard on the interesting lineup.
A minute and half into the game, Evan Polei took a tripping call, putting the Monsters on the penalty kill. There were a few good looks by the Wolves, but they couldn’t get anything past Matiss Kivlenieks, who was laying everything out there to stop a goal. Justin Scott also sacrificed his body to stop a snipe down the slot.
During the first 5:30 of play, the Monsters were unable to register a shot on goal. Which wouldn’t seem so bad if the Wolves hadn’t fired off 11 shots during that same time frame. At around the halfway point, the Wolves began to relax. “The last half of the first wasn’t that great. We thought it was going to be an easy game and they surprised us with three goals,” said Allard.
The Monsters first shot of the night came with 13:22 left in the first period and it turned into a goal. Tyler Angle was able to chip the shot into the net for the goal. Phil Tomasino took the Monsters goal personally and scored on the very next shift to tie the game at one.
With 7:45 to play in the first period, Stelio Mattheos went to the box for slashing, sending the Monsters to the power play. For the first 20 seconds of the power play, Trey Fix-Wolansky sat in the faceoff circle, creating plays and firing shots towards the net. Mere moments before time ran out on the man-advantage, the Monsters were able to take the lead. Gavin Bayreuther saw Zach Jordan making a break for the net and lofted the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone. Once Jordan received the puck, he was able to slam it into the net for the goal.
With 2:55 left in the first period, the Monsters took the 3-1 lead over the IceHogs. Fix-Wolansky picked up a rebound in front of Kivlenieks and hustled down the ice. He tangled with a Wolves defender, leaving the puck behind for Adam Helewka to snipe into the net.
To prevent the Monsters from gaining any sort of edge, Wolves Head Coach Ryan Warsofsky had a little chat with his players during intermission. “The message was we thought we could play in the offensive zone all night and it would be easy,” said Coach Warsofsky. “Unfortunately, we’re learning if we don’t play hard without the puck, we don’t play hard in our puck battles and our races and we don’t compete away from the puck, playing in the offensive zone is not going to happen.”
The energy in the second period was a lot different than the first period. For starters, Frederic Allard scored 18 seconds into the middle stanza of play. This goal let the Monsters know that the Wolves were not going to take this game lying down.
David Warsofsky spent the rest of the second period trying to tie the game for the Wolves. McDonald refused to let him get anywhere near the net. The rest of the Monsters defense created a wall in the neutral zone that the Wolves could barely penetrate.
The Wolves offense was able to solve the Monsters’ riddle 2:43 into the third period. David Cotton launched a wicked wrister that Kivlenieks was able to quickly knock away. Ryan Suzuki saw the puck rolling out of the crease and sprung into action, knocking the rebound into the net to tie the game at three.
Speaking of Kivlenieks, the Monsters spent a good chunk of the third period on the penalty kill and he saved the game multiple times. Kivlenieks is the reason why the game was pushed to overtime. In fact, he was the reason why the game didn’t end during the first 30 seconds of extra time.
Most of overtime felt like a track meet as the Wolves and Monsters raced each other down the ice before shooting on the net. Then Bibeau and Kivlenieks would crush the dreams of whomever was trying to score the game winner. With both netminders putting their top notch skills on display, the game ended in a shootout with Justin Scott scoring the lone goal to give the Monsters the 4-3 win.
Less than 24 hours later, the Monsters and Wolves were back in the rink to battle it out for a win. Yet again, the Cleveland Monsters took the lead in the first period. This time, they fired off more than zero shots in the first half of the opening period of play.
Warsofsky was back in full force, launching heavy handed shots towards Kivlenieks. If you don’t believe me, just ask Kivlenieks’ stick, which was knocked out of his hand by the sheer force of Warsofsky’s shot from the top of the faceoff circle. None of those heavy shots went into the net because Kivlenieks and Andrew Peeke were unafraid of throwing their body in front of a laser beam.
Helewka lit the lamp for the Monsters with 9:30 left in the first period. It was a nice little redirect past Beck Warm to give the Monsters the 1-0 lead over the IceHogs. Two minutes later, Angle carried the puck around the ice with multiple Wolves in tow. As he came around the back of the net, Angle saw Dillon Simpson sitting on the doorstep and tossed the puck over his way. Simpson swiftly popped it into the net for the 2-0 lead.
The second period was full of feist and aggression as two separate kerfuffles broke out in front of each netminder. You could see the Wolves and Monster relationship begin to crumble before your eyes.
At one point, Lukas Craggs had an incredible short-handed breakaway that Kivelenieks stopped. Craggs had his wheels going, but Kivlenieks was able to track his every move. Warm got in on the dream crushing when he robbed Carson Meyer of a goal. Meyer sniped the puck top shelf, but Warm reached his glove up faster than the teacher’s pet wanting to answer a question to stop it from entering the net.
The Wolves were able to get on the board with 2:16 left in the second period. Sean Malone passed the puck across the front of the net to Dominik Bokk who popped it into the net to cut the Monsters lead in half, 2-1.
The Monsters put some distance between them and the Wolves when Angle scored off of the faceoff 4:24 into the third period.
— Greg Boysen (@GregBoysen) March 6, 2021
Sixteen shots were launched at Kivlenieks by the Wolves during the third period. Not a single one flew across the goal line. When the horn sounded, the Monsters had dealt the Wolves their first two home losses of the season.