CLEVELAND – After a 14-day layoff, the Cleveland Monsters returned to the ice on Saturday to take on their Central Division rival, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
At the beginning of the game, you never would have guessed the Monsters were coming off a two-week break. They smothered the Griffins at every turn, including inside the neutral zone. Due to the fact the Monsters clogged lanes and yanked pucks off of multiple sticks, getting a shot on net during the first five minutes was an absolute struggle for the Griffins. It took Cleveland goaltender Brad Thiessen 4:30 into the game to finally see some puck action. It wasn’t even a registered shot on the goal for the Griffins due to the fact they completely missed the net. But the puck banging off the boards behind the net allowed Thiessen to roam for a little bit.
During the first period, newcomer Ole Bjorgvik-Holm proved to be a nice little addition to the Monsters defense. He constantly zipped in and out of the area behind the net while snatching up pucks. This allowed Thiessen to stay in the crease and focus on tracking the plays the Griffins were trying to draw up.
Dillon Simpson lit the lamp for Cleveland with 8:59 left in the first period. His ability to stay with a puck and complete the play is what allowed Simpson to make this goal come to fruition.
With 8:59 left in the first period, Dillon Simpson gets the the Cleveland Monsters on the board first after picking up his own rebound.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) March 20, 2021
Despite the Monsters strong showing for the bulk of the first period, the last five minutes were the Grand Rapids Griffins show. The Griffins’ gears were starting to turn at high speed. Their passes started coming in fast, crisp, and accurate. The plays they drew up brought the Griffins closer to the net, especially Givani Smith, who constantly found himself unattended within inches of Thiessen. Only Thomas Schemitsch seemed to care that Smith was making runs for the net, sitting back near the blue line waiting for lanes to open and studying the Monsters’ every move. Schemitsch stuck to Smith like glue for the entire first period.
The Griffins continued to send a message by scoring within the first minute of the second period to tie the game at one. The goal scorer was — wait for it — Smith, who was left completely unattended near the blue line.
Justin Scott launched a shot into the net from the top of the slot 1:16 into the second. Plot twist! Mere moments before Scott’s shot the net had been knocked off the moorings. Evan Polei cross-checked Joe Hicketts into the Griffins net.
The Monsters were able to exact their revenge by taking the 2-1 lead 1:14 later. Posted near the boards, Tyler Angle tossed the puck over to Wyatt Newpower, who slapped it with a mighty fury into the net from the blue line.
The first penalty of the evening was called in the second period when Turner Elson was collared for tripping. The Monsters were unsuccessful in many ways on the power play.
Smith tied the game at two for the Griffins with 9:40 left in the second. From below the goal line, Dominic Turgeon sniped the puck towards the Monsters’ net. Thiessen was able to get his pad on the puck causing it to bounce slowly in the slot. As Thiessen reached down to smother the puck with his glove, Smith came rushing in and lifted the puck into the top of the net for the goal.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) March 21, 2021
Once the Griffins got things started, it was hard to turn them off. Chase Pearson gave the Griffins the 3-2 lead with 4:33 to play in the second period. He had a nice breakaway, which allowed him to loft the puck behind Thiessen.
When the second period ended, the Monsters were down a goal and had only been able to register three shots on goal. Monsters Head Coach Mike Eaves explained this was likely do to the way the team executed plays. ”I think we were okay with the pace, but executing with the pace we were behind a little bit. That was the problem tonight.”
The third period started with the Monsters struggling to get out of the neutral zone. Once they made it in the zone, the Griffins were there to steal the puck and make a play for the net.
It didn’t get any better when the Griffins took the 4-2 lead 5:23 into the period. Dominik Shine was pushed to the ground by Bjorgvik-Holm while trying to shoot. Thiessen was able to stop the shot, but Pearson swooped in to knock the rebound into the net. Adam Clendening had his back to Pearson and thought the play had finished. So, he let up on defending the area in front of Thiessen.
Dylan McIlrath and Polei dropped the gloves with 11:14 left to play in the game. The fight featured a bob and weave move by Polei. Normally these kind of fights turn the momentum around for the Monsters; in this case, it did not.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) March 21, 2021
The Monsters tried to cook up plays, but nothing was working for them. On top of that, their power play was completely uninspiring. There was no hustle, passes were off, and scoring lanes seemed completely out of reach.
Riley Barber dealt the final blow by scoring an empty-netter with a little over a minute to play, giving the Griffins the 5-2 lead and eventual victory.