Belleville, ON – This weekend was indeed a tale of what seemed to be two incredibly different Cleveland Monsters teams. While they started the weekend strong and confident, they ended only an entirely different note.
Going into the weekend series against the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Belleville Senators, the Monsters were looking to snap a three-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the Senators were enjoying a five-game winning streak.
FIRST, A VICTORY
On Friday night at the CAA arena in Belleville, the Monsters handily defeated the Senators by a score of 6-2. The entire Monsters team was united and provided a physical presence. Perhaps the most significant contribution by the lineup was on the scoresheet, with 11 different players earning points on Friday evening.
Tallying goals were Stefan Matteau, Nathan Gerbe, Justin Scott, Dillon Simpson, Michael Prapavessis, and Gabriel Carlsson. Prapavessis and Carlsson both notched their first goals of the season.
Meanwhile, assists were added by Doyle Somerby, Anton Karlsson, Kevin Stenlund, Adam Clendening, Jakob Lilja, Simpson, and Carlsson.
The majority of the Monsters scoring came in the first 9:52 of the third period, with four goals scored. Simpson’s and Carlsson’s tallies were both on the man advantage.
Belleville’s first goal came from Rudolfs Balcers on the power play during the second period. Their second was notched by Cole Cassels with one minute remaining in the game.
Veini Vehvilainen tallied 17 saves in the win, while Belleville’s Filip Gustavsson stopped 20 pucks in the loss.
Cleveland centerman Marko Dano played a crucial part in the win by routinely setting up critical screens, which led to at least two goals. He also played a highly physical game, which has been his calling card this season.
Cleveland was physical, played smart with the puck, and simply dominated in all aspects of the game.
THEN, A LOSS
Following Friday’s decisive win and united presence, the Monsters looked to carry it into Saturday’s game. They knew that the Senators would be out for revenge, and that trying to beat a team twice in a row on the road is difficult. Head Coach Mike Eaves knew that fact well and talked about it before Saturday’s tilt:
“It’s tough to beat a team back-to-back in their own building. To me, it is almost like a playoff game.”
The Monsters were not able to sustain the momentum, falling by a score of 7-1.
The Senators dictated the pace early with Alex Formenton scoring just 28 seconds into the first period. Cleveland’s Markus Hannikainen scored about seven minutes later, with assists from Stenlund and Gerbe.
Belleville broke out from there with goals from Drake Batherson, a second from Formenton, Josh Norris, Max Veronneau, and Balcers.
Matiss Kivlenieks had 25 saves in the loss, with Marcus Hogberg stopping 29 shots.
Monsters forward Paul Bittner emphasized that the team and coaching staff feel that they are playing the right way, even when the scoresheet isn’t in their favor. For the most part, it is because of bad puck luck. He says that the coaches are encouraging the players: “Stay with it. Stay with the course, and it will get better for us.”
A PLAYER RETURNS
One of the highlights of the weekend was the return of forward Trey Fix-Wolansky, who has been out with an injury since October 12. On his first shift, he came out with self-assurance, speed, and physicality — and didn’t look back.
Fix-Wolansky’s linemate Bittner was excited to have him back:
“Oh, he was buzzing! His feet were going, and I loved it. I love his energy. I mean, I’m a big energy guy on this team and so is he, so it’s great to see him on my line. I love him.”
Meanwhile, Eaves was highly complimentary of him before Saturday’s rematch:
“You can see his quickness, his quick stick. It was nice to see his first shift; he hit somebody to get that out of the way. But, you could definitely see that offensive flair. He played about 12 minutes last night, and I’m sure that was plenty for him. We’ll try to get him more ice time and get him back, maybe even into some power play time.”
THREE STARS OF THE WEEKEND
Third star: Nathan Gerbe – One goal, one assist
Second star: Gabriel Carlsson – One goal (his first of the season), one assist
First star: Kevin Stenlund – Two assists (this ties him for the third-longest active point streak in the AHL. He also currently holds the longest active road assists streak in the league, with five games and five assists)
Seventh out of seven in North Division, twelfth out of fifteen in Eastern Conference
12-11-1-1 (26 Points)
The Monsters finish up their road trip facing off against the Laval Rocket on Tuesday, December 10 at 7:00 pm EST at Place Bell. Cleveland returns to the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse for a weekend homestand against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. On Friday, December 13, the puck drops at 7:00 pm EST. Then, on Saturday, December 14th, at 7:00 pm EST is the annual Chuck-A-Bear game.
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