CLEVELAND – Coming into Saturday night’s game, the Cleveland Monsters were riding high on a five game win-streak. Two of those wins were against their opponent for the night, the Rochester Americans.
Twenty six seconds was all it took for the Americans to show they meant business. Monsters forward Carson Meyer dropped back a pass intended for Dillon Simpson. Seeing the pass coming, Rochester winger Matej Pekar quickly swooped in to intercept the puck and took off down the ice towards the net. As Pekar neared the left faceoff circle, he swiveled to the right and backhanded the puck towards Remi Elie, who popped it into the net for the goal to make it 1-0.
Things started to get spicy a minute later when Monsters defender Brandon Crawley laid a clean, massive hit on Amerks defender Dalton Smith. After receiving the hit, Smith crumpled to the ice and didn’t get up right away. The play swiftly moved to the other end of the ice where Monsters winger Tristan Mullin accidentally threw his entire body into Rochester netminder Stefano Lekkas while trying to make a play. Dominic Franco did not approve of what happened to his goalie and a kerfuffle ensued.
After multiple nitty, gritty attempts, the Monsters were able to tie the game at one 6:34 into the period when Luke Moncada picked up Simpson’s rebound. Simpson launched the puck with such force that it popped right out of Lekkas’ glove. Due to sitting on the doorstep during the play, Moncada was able to redirect the rebound into the net with his body. “I just tried to beat my guy back to the net. You go to the net, you kind of get rewarded sometimes,” said Moncada of his first professional goal. “It was a little bit of a greasy one, but just went off my midsection there and I got rewarded.”
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) April 17, 2021
At this point in the game, both goalies began to show off their leg strength. Monsters netminder Matiss Kivlenieks was like a steel trap. At one point, he snapped his five-hole with such strength the puck bounced to the middle of the slot. Meanwhile, Lekkas smoothly slid across the crease to kick shots away with ease.
Despite the fact Cleveland was able to come back and tie the game, Monsters Head Coach Mike Eaves wasn’t exactly thrilled with how the team played in the first period. “We were very disappointed in our start and we didn’t play to who we were in the first period,” he said. “They’re (Rochester) a team that has great pride and they don’t like to lose. They came out and battled . I don’t think we had our ‘A’ game.”
Cleveland had a shot at turning things around when they went on the power play at the start of the second period. They mixed things up a bit. Instead of constantly firing shots off from the point, they rushed the net in an attempt to draw all four of the Amerks’ penalty killers into the corners. After two times of doing this, Rochester caught on and made sure one person was near the crease at all times.
Tyler Angle gave the Monsters the 2-1 lead 6:35 into the second period. Cleveland defender Wyatt Newpower saw Angle unattended along the boards and quickly tossed the puck his way. When Angle hit the top of the right faceoff circle, he wound up and fired a slapper into the back of the net.
Speaking of Newpower, much of the second period was spent watching him play keep away from the Amerks. He would skate around with the puck until Rochester got tired or until there was an open passing lane. This style of play allowed the Monsters to maintain control during line changes and focus on drawing up plays.
With 5:58 left in the second, Cleveland forward Zach Jordan picked up a pass from Mullin, lunged, and sniped it into the back of the net from the right faceoff circle to give the Monsters the 3-1 lead over the Amerks. The two Rochester defenders in front of Jordan did not seem ready for the play to unfold the way it did.
The Amerks weren’t going to let the Monsters have too much of a lead for long. With 3:38 to play in the middle stanza, a shot by Elie through traffic found its way into the back of the net to put Rochester within one of Cleveland, 3-2.
Not even two minutes into the third period, the Monsters put space between them and the Amerks, 4-2, when forward Tyler Sikura rebounded Meyer’s shot into the net for a power play goal. “Helewka made a nice play into Carson there who always seems to be open. He put a nice shot on and I was able to find the rebound,” Sikura said of his third period goal. “That’s where I’m going to score most of my goals, right there in front of the net.”
Sikura’s goal extended his point and goal streak to six games. During the post game presser, Sikura stated his success is likely stemming from the fact Cleveland has placed him in situations where he can thrive. “I felt when I got here they really understood what kind of player I was and what I could bring to the table. I feel like I’ve been put in the right situations,” said Sikura.
Tyler Sikura extends is point and goal streak to six games with a goal 1:51 into the third period.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) April 17, 2021
The Amerks were not going to let the Monsters skate away with a win that easy. With 10:54 left in the third, defender Mattias Samuelsson received a pass from Pekar and lofted it past Kivlenieks’ glove. Yet again, Pekar did a quick swivel move before passing the puck off to his teammate.
It wouldn’t be long before Cleveland took control of the game back.
A nasty shot from the right point to the left side of the net by Monsters defender Thomas Schemitsch extended Cleveland’s lead over Rochester to 5-3 with 6:32 to play. Then, with 59.9 seconds left, Newpower chipped a shot from the neutral zone into the back of the net for the final blow, 6-3.
Not only did the Monsters come from behind to beat their foe for the third straight game, they also extended their win streak to six games.
It was not an easy feat to accomplish. As we touched on earlier, Coach Eaves felt as though the team didn’t play with their “A” game. However, by the end of the night, Eaves was impressed with the way the team executed their “B” game. “I think the good sign of any good athlete or team is when you don’t have your ‘A’ game, you find a way to get it done,” Coach Eaves explained. “You have to play with your ‘B’ game.” He then went on to give this great analogy about the sport of tennis and the acronym K.I.S.S.
“I’m a big fan of tennis. I like to watch tennis because it’s one-on-one competition. There’s no place to hide. When you’re not playing well, you don’t have a linemate to lean on or a defenseman, it’s you. You have to figure it out in terms of maximizing what you have to offer that day. So, for our guys, this was a lesson. This game is the first in a while where we didn’t play a game as well as we have been playing. We talked about it in the first and second that old acronym Keep It Simple. Some say it’s stupid as the last s, but it’s not. It’s Keep It Simple Smart. I think when you play your ‘B’ game, that’s the way you have to think.”
Between playing with their “B” game and the opposition being able to read every play the first line drew up, Cleveland switched a few things up and made adjustments in an attempt to get a leg up on Rochester. They handled the adjustments quite well. Moncada attributes the ease of adjustment to the veterans setting good examples and the coaches being ready to handle whatever is thrown their way. “I think a lot of it comes from the top. Our older guys set the right example every day at the rink in practice. Then, we come to the game with the right mindset,” explained Moncada. “Along with the coaches always having the game plan ready and making the adjustments we need. Then when it comes to the player on game day, we’re ready to play.”
The Monsters look to extend their win-streak against the Griffins when they visit Grand Rapids on Tuesday and Wednesday.
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