Cleveland -The Cleveland Monsters fell to the Toronto Marlies, 4-1, on Friday night. Heading into the game the Monsters were missing eight of their more prominent players due to call ups to their parent club the Columbus Blue Jackets. Luckily, for the Monsters, forwards Brett Gallant and Robbie Payne made their season debut after dealing with upper body injuries. Kirill Marchenko was also back in action after a short term illness.
For Head Coach Trent Vogelhuber, the constant roster changes are not something he’s worried about when it comes to coaching. “We have guys here who can win games for us and that are good players.” Unfortunately, tonight wasn’t a good example of how well the Monsters roster can play. “We didn’t show up to play. Regardless of who is in the lineup,” said Vogelhuber.
Where was the breakdown? Well, according to Vogelhuber, the breakdown started earlier in the day. “It felt like a lack of energy leading up to the game. Even this morning.” The Monsters were able to address some of their issues throughout the game but it was a case of too little, too late. “Against a good team, you can’t wait until half the game is over,” explained Vogelhuber.
A lack of energy caused the Monsters’ special teams to struggle. ”Neither of them were great, I don’t think,” said Vogelhuber. “The penalty kill did ok.” He expanded by saying “But one little mistake here, one little mistake there, keeps biting them.” Those little mistakes turned into two power play goals for the Marlies.
Speaking of power play goals, Emil Bemstrom scored one for the Monsters to tie the game 1:30 into the third period. However, it didn’t quite ignite a raging fire within the players. “The power play got the goal there but I don’t think it provided us a whole lot of juice,” said Vogelhuber.
A power play goal from Emil Bemstrom ties the game at one for the Monsters 1:30 into the third period.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) November 26, 2022
Before the game, the Monsters sat at the top of the AHL with a 32.1% success rate on the man advantage. Just below them sat the Marlies with a 30.0% success rate. Even after all of the missteps Cleveland’s special teams took tonight, they still sit in first place. However, the gap is much closer between the two now. Exactly .6% separates the Monsters from the Marlies. .
Despite the lack of energy and the less than stellar special teams, there was a bright spot for the Monsters, goaltender Pavel Cajan. “That’s his third game in a row that he’s played very well. His confidence is high. He’s competing. He’s doing great,” said Vogelhuber..
Cajan kept the Monsters alive in the first period when he had to face down a penalty shot 3:30 into the game. Leading up to the penalty shot, Cajan made a nice sliding save. Unfortunately, defender Samuel Knazko tripped Marlies forward Adam Gaudette causing the penalty shot to come to life. Yet again, Cajan was able to smoothly slide across the crease to stop Gaudette from scoring..
Pavel Cajan had a nice little sliding save 3:30 into the first period but due to Samuel Knazko tripping Adam Gaudette it turned into a penalty shot.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) November 26, 2022
As the game rolled on, Cajan continued to make save after save. His ability to control rebounds allowed the Monsters to breathe a little. If the Marlies were not going to remove themselves from the top of the crease, Cajan was going to have to hold onto as many puck as possible.
Toronto struggled to score goals all game because of Cajan. So, when Vogelhuber pulled him for the extra attacker with two minutes to play, the Marlies were ready to take advantage of the empty net. In the span of a minute, they scored two empty-net goals to beat the Monsters 4-1.
After the game, the Monsters and Marlies loaded up their buses and set forth for Toronto where they will play each other on Saturday at 4pm. Vogelhuber isn’t worried about the tight turn around though. He feels like it will give the players less time to stew over their loss. “I wouldn’t want to sit on that kind of game for too long”. However, Vogelhuber does hope the Monsters will find a way to play like the players he knows they can be. “If we can play even close to our best, we’ll be in much better shape than tonight.”
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