CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Monsters dropped their fifth game in a row on Saturday, this time losing to the Charlotte Checkers, 3-2.
The Monsters play in the first period was much like the weather outside — dreary and foggy. It took them only 32 seconds to take a penalty. About 30 seconds before that penalty ran out, Cleveland went ahead and took another one. Their saving grace on the penalty kill was goaltender Jet Greaves, who slammed the door shut on Charlotte’s barrage of slap shots. Then, the Checkers went on to score three goals over the course of 11 minutes. Each time, Greaves was left unprotected by the Monsters’ defense.
With three registered shots on goal and down 3-0, the Monsters needed a boost — a little something to put a pep in their step. They received a bit of new life when Dominic Franco hugged Billy Sweezey so hard he knocked him on the ground with 59 seconds to play. Roughing was the call from the refs, and the Monsters would spend the rest of the first period on the power play.
Starting the second period with 1:01 of the man-advantage gave the Monsters a much needed pep in their step. A completely different team came out for the middle frame. Part of this new found energy might have also come from head coach Trent Vogelhuber’s observation during the first intermission.
“It looked like there were some players who didn’t belong in this league,” said Vogelhuber. “There’s lots of opportunity in our lineup right now, and it’s time to show if you think you deserve to play in this league or beyond.”
AROUND THE AHL
Around 5:30 into the middle period, the Monsters started to attempt breakaway goals. Josh Dunne, Trey Fix-Wolansky, Tyler Angle, and Jake Christiansen took their turns racing down the ice with a puck they had stolen in the neutral zone or off the boards. Charlotte goaltender Mack Guzda stood tall, denying shot after shot to keep his shutout intact.
Then, all heck broke loose.
With 24.9 seconds left in the second period, Brett Gallant and John Ludvig began to fight in front of the Checkers’ net. While the refs were distracted, Angle wrestled Aleksi Heponiemi to the ground before laying in a few jabs. Gallant removed Givani Smith’s helmet and after two attempts, the helmet flew over the glass into the stands. Gallant was met with thunderous cheers and a 10-minute game misconduct for throwing equipment.
The end of period shenanigans seemed to light a fire under the Monsters. By the time the third period rolled around, Cleveland’s passing was crisper and their plays ran smoother.
Fix-Wolansky spoiled Guzda’s shutout 7:26 into the third period with a beautifully drawn up power play goal. The play started below the goal line with Cole Fonstad, who passed the puck to Christiansen at the top of the near faceoff circle. When Christiansen realized there wasn’t a shooting lane available, he fired the puck off to Fix-Wolansky, who was sitting atop the opposite faceoff circle unattended and ready to shine.
Cleveland continued to build momentum and put their physical strength on display for all to see. They were not going to go down without a fight.
— Elaine Shircliff (@imaraindancer) December 31, 2022
With 5:23 to play in the game, Vogelhuber made the bold move to pull Greaves from net in favor of the extra attacker. A minute and a half later, Fonstand was left alone near the top of the slot, allowing him to cut the Checkers lead to one, 3-2.
Seeing how well the Monsters played with six skaters, Vogelhuber opted to keep Greaves pulled for much of the final minutes of play. Cleveland was unable to score the tying goal before the horn sounded. However, they battled hard until the final second melted off the clock.
Unfortunately, one period of strong hockey is not going to be enough to win games.
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