CLEVELAND – Heading into this weekend’s games against the Chicago Wolves, the Cleveland Monsters were on the hunt to start a new win streak after the last one came to a close courtesy of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The Monsters kicked off their journey towards a new win streak with a goal 4:54 into the game. Cleveland forward Tyler Angle had a nice breakaway down the slot before backhanding the puck over Chicago goaltender Beck Warm’s shoulder. Wolves defender Frederic Allard tried his hardest to get a stick on the puck without hooking Angle in the process, but Angle was just a hair too quick to be stopped.
Not even a minute later, Chicago forward Phil Tomasino tied things up at one for the Wolves. He picked up an errant puck in the neutral zone and glided through the left faceoff circle while doing some nifty stick tricks. As Tomasino neared the faceoff dot, he lofted the puck towards Cleveland’s net. Monsters goaltender Daniil Tarasov stopped the puck but didn’t see where it landed, allowing Tomasino to pick up the rebound.
Around the halfway point of the first period, both goaltenders were forced to wake up a little. First, Allard was stripped of the puck in the slot, which allowed the Monsters to fire off three point blank shots in a row. The speed and angle they were shot from made it difficult for Warm to finish the play completely. On Tarasov’s end of the ice, a puck trickled through his five-hole and he quickly had to flip around to prevent it from entering the goal.
A blocked puck trickles through Daniil Tarasov's five-hole and he quickly pounces on it like a cat playing with a mouse to prevent the goal.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) April 24, 2021
With 4:45 left in the first, the Monsters headed to their first power play of the night. Per usual, the top PP unit made incredible passes that culminated in a goal for Cleveland. This time, it was forward Carson Meyer who gave the Monsters the lead, 2-1. Adam Helewka saw Meyer unattended just a few feet away and passed the puck without looking his way. From near the right faceoff dot, Meyer smacked the puck into the net.
Monsters Head Coach Mike Eaves was pretty happy heading to intermission holding a 2-1 lead. “It was a good first period of hockey. Well played on both sides,” he said. “We were doing things that we wanted to do. We were playing fast, simple, and played with poise and confidence with the puck.”
The second period started out a bit dicey for the Monsters, as the Wolves began to smother Cleveland’s top players at every turn. On top of that, the Monsters had many miscommunications when passing the puck. One of those passes led to Chicago tying the game at two with 8:19 to play in the period.
Meyer passed the puck without looking towards one of his teammates. Or so he thought. The person who received the puck was Chicago defender David Warsofsky. From the blue line, Warsofsky saw Zach Solow come of the bench during a line change for the Wolves and chucked the puck across the ice. Without missing a beat, Solow picked up the puck and raced down the ice before sniping it from the left faceoff dot into the back of the net.
Cleveland was finally able to get back on top with 20 seconds left in the second. Helewka raced towards the net from the neutral zone and once he hit the top of the left faceoff circle, the puck was tossed without looking to forward Tyler Sikura. Upon receiving the puck, Sikura casually slid down the right faceoff circle before slamming the puck into the net for the goal.
Even though the Monsters maintained a 3-2 lead heading into the third, Coach Eaves did not echo the sentiment of the first period. He felt they got away from the quick, simplistic play of the first period. “As a result, we found ourselves in our zone more than we wanted to.” Coach Eaves then went on to explain that the third period was all about “setting out mind correctly” and “going back to what we did in the first.”
Two and a half minutes was all Sikura needed to extend the Monsters lead over the Wolves, 4-2. It all started when Meyer launched a heavy-handed shot at Warm. Sikura saw Warm make a play to cover the rebound and swooped in from behind the goal line to poke the puck away. Once Sikura gained control of the puck, he fired it down the slot into the back of the net.
Monsters extend their lead over the Wolves, 4-2, with a power play goal courtesy of Tyler Sikura.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) April 24, 2021
Now we all know Chicago was not going to go quietly into the night. They scored two goals in the third to push the game into overtime. It was a wild and fun 4:05 of extra play between the two teams. “That overtime, I would have paid to see that,” said Coach Eaves of the high paced overtime. Helewka echoed Coach Eaves’ thoughts, saying, “Even when I wasn’t on the ice watching from the bench, it was exciting. From 2-on-1s, 2-on-0s, guys with broken sticks. It was a heck of a time to watch and I hope the fans enjoyed it, too.”
Based on the noise level and enthusiasm dripping out of every corner of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, it’s safe to say the fans enjoyed that overtime, especially when forwards Angle and Liam Foudy capitalized on a 2-on-1 breakaway to seal the deal on a Monsters win, 5-4. “We had a few chances during overtime. They had a few. Our goalie made a few big saves. Angle and I got a steal there and came on 2-on-1. Had nice play back and forth and put it in there,” said Foudy of the wild overtime and game winner.
And now, the moment you've all been waiting for…
Tyler Angle's OT winner 𝙚𝙣 𝙚𝙨𝙥𝙖𝙣̃𝙤𝙡.
— Cleveland Monsters (@monstershockey) April 24, 2021
For Cleveland, the mood heading into Sunday’s game was to get rested up so they could beat the top team in the division. “This is a top team that we are playing against,” said Helewka. “I don’t think you have to find a reason to want to beat them.”
The Monsters started Sunday’s game looking refreshed and ready to end the weekend strong. Seriously, they came out so refreshed they were able to score two goals within the first 6:17 of the game.
Tristan Mullin lit the lamp first for Cleveland. After receiving a puck from forward Zach Jordan, Mullin dropped to a knee before firing the puck into the back of the net from the left faceoff dot. “Jordo (Jordan) did a great job winning the battle. I was just able to position myself there and Jordo had a great pass and found me. I just kind of got it off quick,” said Mullin of his first period goal.
Cleveland fan favorite Brett Gallant broke away from the pack to hunt down a puck and was able to get a clear shot off from the bottom of the left faceoff circle. ”Schemitsch made a nice play to high slip and I just started skating into the zone,” said Gallant of his goal. “I didn’t know where the puck was and I just got lucky I was skating in the right direction.”
A breakaway from Brett Gallant makes it 2-0 for the Monsters.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) April 25, 2021
Two quick goals from the Monsters woke the Wolves up a bit. Chicago turned up the heat laying massive hits, continually stripped Cleveland of the puck in the offensive zone, and trapped players in the corners.
With 3:46 left in the first period, the Wolves were able to cut the Monsters lead in half, 2-1. After receiving a puck from Chicago winger Anthony Richard, defender Max Lajoie lofted the puck down the slot past Cleveland’s netminder Matiss Kivlenieks.
After a minor slow down towards the end of the first period, the Monsters kicked up their physicality and hustled their way to a 4-2 win over the Chicago Wolves. Cleveland had swept both the weekend series and the season series against Chicago.
At the start of the season, the Wolves were the team to beat in the league. It felt like they were going to run away with the season and go undefeated. Yet, the Monsters were able to consistently highlight and attack Chicago’s flaws. Even though Cleveland had a leg up on the Wolves this season, Coach Eaves still recognizes that, “Chicago is a very good team.” He went on to explain the things that make them so good. “The pace they play and the things they bring to the table,” explained Coach Eaves. “Their forecheck, their faceoff plans.”
Eaves also touched on the fact that he feels the Wolves’ high level of play allows the Monsters to become a better team when they play one another. “Every play they make I think they make us better because they play at such a high pace,” said Coach Eaves. “I wish we could practice against them. Then we would have a real chance to get better.”
Gallant also took a moment to speak to the skill of Chicago saying, “That’s a really good hockey team over there. They have high end talent.” However, Gallant also made it a point to note why the Monsters are able to take down a high level team such as the Wolves. “It’s just the next man up with this team. These young guys come in full of energy. For us, they are working the other teams,” explained Gallant on what’s working for the Monsters. “They (Chicago) might be more talented but in the game of hockey it’s hard work.”
Next up for the Monsters is a road trip to take on the Texas Stars starting Thursday, April 29.