Monsters stop Griffins 6-4  
(CLEVELAND, OH) - The Cleveland Monsters defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins by a final score of 6-4 Friday night from Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the home finale for the Monsters. They will finish the season in Grand Rapids Saturday night. Coming into the game, Brett Gallant was trailing Dan Maggio by just three penalty minutes for the all-time penalty minute record in Monsters' franchise history - would he set it Friday night?

Before we get into what turned out to be a crazy first period, it should be noted that several guys who are typically in the lineup from each team were missing tonight. For Cleveland, Adam Helewka, Justin Scott, and Liam Foudy were all out of the lineup. For the Griffins, Dominik Shine and Kyle Criscuolo were out of the lineup.

Cleveland's first shot didn't come until 6:07 into the game but they made it count and that's what matters. After some nifty stick handling skills through traffic, Luke Moncada left the puck on the stick of Tristian Mullin, who shot it from just below the left face off dot. The puck hit just under the crossbar for a good goal. Cleveland then extended their lead while being on their first power play of the night. Cole Fonstad, who was making his Monsters' debut, passed down to the goal line to Tyler Sikura, who quickly centered a pass to Carson Meyer in the slot. Meyer shot the puck from one knee, scoring five hole on Kaden Fulcher. 

At 12:56 Grand Rapids got one back. The Griffins were able to maintain good puck possession in their offensive zone. Seth Barton fired a shot from the blue line and it deflected off the stick of Chase Pearson, who in front of the net and it went in. It took Cleveland all of 47 seconds to get their two-goal advantage back. There was a crowd of players in the right face off circle; Cliff Pu found the puck just flipping towards the net and it found its way past Fulcher to make it 3-1. After this goal, Kaden Fulcher was pulled from the game and Pat Nagle took over in net. 

The goalie change seemed to give Grand Rapids the boost they needed as less then two minutes later the Griffins made it a 3-2 game. Givani Smith was coming off the bench and stopped a puck from leaving the Griffins' offensive zone. He just lobbed it from the blue line, hoping to keep the puck in and it hit off the stick Max Humitz and went into the net. This was truly just a lucky goal for the Griffins. Just 50 seconds later the Griffins tied the game while being on the power play. Taro Hirose took a wrist shot from just about the right face off circle. Hirose placed it so it would go off of Givani Smith who was behind all of the Monsters' defenders and he tapped it in for an easy goal. This would end what was a crazy first period. 

Just 50 seconds into the second, Griffins winger Patrick Curry took a interference minor. The face off was in the Monsters' offensive zone and Chase Pearson took it for the Griffins. He got tied up and wound up batting the puck with his hand, which was delay of game. This gave Cleveland a full two minutes of 5/3. Cleveland had puck possession for the first 60 seconds in their zone, setting up a triangle, before Dillion Simpson passed over to Gavin Bayreuther, who slapped it past Nagle to give Cleveland a 4-3 lead. 

Cleveland extended the lead at 3:49 into the third period. It came on a very weird goal that one the refs made the call on. The goal light was extremely delayed and the Monsters were even delayed on realizing the puck went in. Wyatt Newpower headed down towards the goal line with speed before tossing the puck to Cliff Pu in front of the net. Pu shot the puck off the pads of Pat Nagle and Josh Dunne put the rebound past Nagle to make it 5-3. Once the players lined up for the face off, Patrick Curry lifted his stick and hit Gallant, after which Brett slashed him back and give him a shove. After a lengthy conversation between the refs, Curry got two for high sticking and Gallant would get two for slashing. Each of them also picked up ten-minute misconducts. With the twelve penalty minutes on the play, Brett Gallant passed Dan Maggio on the all time penalty minutes list. 

Grand Rapids refused go away quietly, though, taking a power play goal at 12:27 to make it a 5-4 game. Taro Hirose put the puck on the stick of Riley Barber, who shot the puck from just above the left face off circle, beating Tarasov glove side. Later on, Cleveland got an empty net goal from Josh Dunne to seal the deal and give the Monsters a 6-4 victory. 

This was a crazy game on which to end the home season - taking on our rivals, the Grand Rapids Griffins, and having a six-goal first period. It didn't bring the physicality one would expect a Griffin-Monster game to have, especially it being the 9/10 meeting on the year between the two clubs. With things winding down, it has been a crazy season for the guys on the ice, from not being able to hang out with their teammates outside of the rink to keeping life on the road strictly in their hotel and the arena to not having replay, and, of course, with COVID protocols, not knowing on any given night who could be unavailable. Coach Eaves said, "Next man is the mentality this year. Especially in Covid times, it's always going to be next man up. Hockey is like soccer: you can't tell these guys a play. They need to use their skill and read the play, then develop down ice what they want to do." 

Following up on keys to the game and my player to watch: 1 Fix the power play. Cleveland had two power play goals Friday night so they definitely did a better job. 2. Do not take as many penalties. Cleveland once again struggled on the kill, allowing two power play goals and only killing one penalty successfully. 3. Get back to the basics. Cleveland got back to the basics of taking what they could Friday night and it ultimately led to a victory. My player to watch was Cliff Pu. Pu was fun to watch Friday night, having a goal on four shots with an assist and being a plus two in the game. 

Grand Rapids started Kaden Fulcher in net; he stopped 5/8 shots faced in 13:43. Pat Nalge played the remaining 44:54, stopping 19 /21 shots faced. Cleveland countered with Daniil Tarasov, who stopped 25/29 shots faced. The first star went to Cliff Pu with a goal and an assist, the second star went to Tyler Angle with two assists, and Josh Dunne earned the third star with two goals. 

The Monsters will take on the Grand Rapids Griffins tomorrow for the tenth and final time this year in the season finale from Van Andes Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with the puck dropping at 7pm. Let's look at the keys to the game and the player to watch: 1. Don't let Grand Rapids stand in the slot. Three goals for the Griffins came off deflections. If we can keep them out of the zone, it will be harder for them to get the deflections. 2. Get off to a better start. Cleveland not getting their first shot on goal until six minutes in is not what I am referring to. Cleveland did not have good puck awareness until the first goal. They struggled with their passes and getting the puck out of their zone. 3. Improve the penalty kill. The Monsters allowed two power play goals Friday night as they continue to struggle on the kill. They need to clean it up for the last game of the year. 
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​POSTED 05/14/2021 23:34
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