CLEVELAND – The Texas Stars and Cleveland Monsters met for the second of a three-game series on Saturday night. On Thursday, the Monsters dominated the Stars until the final horn blew. Saturday’s game was a bit of a different story.
Unlike last match-up, Cleveland basically dominated the first half of the game.
Around four minutes into the first period, Monsters forward Adam Helewka had a breakaway towards Stars netminder Colton Point. As he neared the net, Helewka cut left and tried to sneak the puck past Point’s pad. Due to the fact Point had his leg firmly planted on the ice, no goal happened.
However, the Monsters did manage to find the back of the net 8:01 into the first period. Monsters forward Kole Sherwood went one-on-one with Stars defender Ben Gleason before launching the puck behind Point to give Cleveland the 1-0 lead.
Wouldn't it be nice to score the first goal of the night?
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) March 27, 2021
A few minutes later, Sherwood made a move to put another deadly shot on net, but the Stars smothered him before a shot could be fired off.
Monsters right winger Carson Meyer scooped up a rebound and fired it through Point’s five-hole 2:53 into the second period to give the Monsters the 2-0 lead over the Stars. Not even 30 seconds later, Monsters centerman Justin Scott dropped a pass back to fellow center Liam Foudy, who dropped to one knee before firing the puck into the net. The Monsters now had a commanding 3-0 lead over the Stars.
With 12:09 left in the second period, Texas decided to get on the scoring action. Stars left winger Adam Mascherin passed across the slot to right winger Nick Baptiste. As Cleveland netminder Brad Thiessen slid across the crease to stop Baptiste, the puck was thrown back to Mascherin. Former Stars defenseman Gavin Bayreuther tried to pull the puck off of Mascherin’s stick, but it was too late. He had already found the back of the net.
An unfortunate bounce off the boards with 37 seconds left in the second led to the second Texas goal of the night. Thiessen went around the back of the net to retrieve an oncoming puck. It bounced off the boards, forcing Thiessen to rush towards the front of the net. As he was sprawling out to stop the puck, Stars center Josh Melnick pushed the puck into the net for the goal.
“I don’t think we’ve had a puck go in off the back boards. We’ve seen the other team have that happen at least a half a dozen times in the year and a half that I’ve been here,” said Monsters Head Coach Mike Eaves.
After the goal, Baptiste jumped over the sprawled out Thiessen while trying to celebrate with Melnick. The Monsters activated rage mode and aggressive pushing quickly ensued. Coach Eaves felt tempers flared at the right time because it gave him an opportunity to preach emotional control in the locker room during the second intermission. “It was something we talked about. You have to have emotions to play this game. You have to have emotional control and emotional intelligence. It’s something that all athletes deal with.”
One thing that makes the Stars difficult to deal with this season is their ability to make their opponent battle hard for a win. Nothing comes easy against Texas. With that being said, the Stars turned the heat up for the final stanza of play.
Baptiste tied the game at three with a laser beam from just above the right faceoff circle 4:23 into the third period. Thiessen relaxed a bit after kicking away Riley Damiani’s initial shot. The breather allowed Baptiste to find the chink in Thiessen’s armor.
Nick Baptiste ties the game at three with a lazer beam from just above the right faceoff circle.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) March 28, 2021
The tying goal breathed new even more life into the Stars. They continued to hit hard and pick the pockets of anyone entering the neutral zone.
With 10:51 to play in the game, a line change got the best of the Monsters, giving Texas centerman Derek Barach room to take off with the puck. Once Barach hit the top of the slot, he wound up and let one loose. It flew past Bayreuther and Thiessen before landing in the net.
“We were trying to make a change and trying to get guys to the bench. It ended up being a loose puck and we had a little gap,” said Coach Eaves of Barach’s shorthanded goal. “The guys just hit it as hard as he could and it went off the post and in.”
Barach’s goal not only gave the Stars the 4-3 lead, but also gave them the energy to finish strong against the Monsters. In the end, the Cleveland fell to Texas after giving up four unanswered goals in a period and a half.
Lately, the Monsters have been riding Thiessen. When asked if they might give Hayden Stewart a whirl on Sunday, Coach Eaves responded, “We will see how young Thiessen’s legs are in the morning.” Then, went on to explain that Thiessen is a “really a well conditioned athlete. So, we’ll see how it is when we get to the rink tomorrow and make the call then.”
The Monsters and Stars meet again on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Meet back here then to find out who gets the start in net for Cleveland.