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Stars Align for Texas Win Over Cleveland

Stars Align for Texas Win Over Cleveland

CLEVELAND – Momentum can be a cruel and unforgiving force. When you think you have all the control and the game on lockdown, momentum can switch and put you on your heels. That was the hard lesson for the Cleveland Monsters on Saturday evening against the Texas Stars.

Cleveland was missing their top two scorers in the lineup to start the game: forward Trey Fix-Wolansky (who is out for the season following ACL surgery) and defenseman Dillon Simpson. Even without them, the Monsters got out to a commanding start.

First Period

The defense pairing of Adam Clendening and Jake Christiansen smothered every Stars player that touched the puck. Meanwhile, D Gavin Bayreuther and F Carson Meyer teamed up early and often to make the physical check and further throw the Stars off their game.

Texas goaltender Colton Point was tested throughout most of the first. Whether it was an early breakaway by Adam Helewka, a rocket from the point by Bayreuther, or shots from way down low by Liam Foudy, Point kept his team in it early.

Then, at 8:01 of the first, the dam finally broke. Kole Sherwood danced around several Stars players and shot the puck high over Point’s shoulder. That impressive play put the Monsters up 1-0 and solidified their momentum.  Not only was that Sherwood’s first goal of this season, but that also was rookie defenseman Ole Bjorgvik-Holm’s first North American professional point. It also marked the 10th time in Cleveland’s last 11 games where they scored first.

For the rest of the first, the Monsters, primarily Sherwood, skated with purpose and drive. They forced Point to leave his crease multiple times for a well-timed poke check or gather the puck before a Monsters skater could get to it. In fact, that was one of the few times the Stars had possession in the first. If Point wasn’t controlling it, the Stars only seemed to gain possession if Cleveland was dumping it out of their own zone.

After the first, Cleveland had a commanding lead in shots: 13-5. You could have easily called the first “The Sherwood Show.” He was out there looking like he wants to be Fix-Wolansky’s replacement. His play, at times, mesmerized the Stars and the 4,100 fans in attendance at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

The Stars were looking lost, just chasing the game the entire first period. Though, you could tell that this wouldn’t last all night.

Second Period

Texas got the opportunity to start knocking down bits of Cleveland’s momentum wall just 19 seconds into the second. As Peeke got called for interference, Stars forward Riley Damiani looked to want to change the tide singlehandedly. He had the stick on his puck a decent portion of the power play.

Not even three minutes into the second period, Cleveland responded with a Meyer goal from the doorstep. A shot from Justin Scott rebounded off Point, where Meyer was able to wrangle possession in traffic and snap it home.

Momentum looked to be fully on Cleveland’s side when, only 35 seconds later, Foudy also netted his first of the year with a quick snap while down on one knee. The Stars looked frustrated and agitated but far from defeated.

That’s when Cleveland started to learn how funny and downright evil luck and momentum can be. A weird play in Texas’s zone led to the puck skipping over Peeke’s stick before getting tangled with Damiani and then a 2-on-1 breakaway by Nick Baptiste and Adam Mascherin. Mascherin tallied his ninth of the season and put Texas on the board.

From that point on, Texas was in control. Every single misstep on that ice, they capitalized on it. They played like a team that was either entirely determined to get the victory or just outright possessed. Whatever it was, it worked for them.

Brad Thiessen, the man that was initially supposed the be Cleveland’s third goalie and goalie coach, was forced to bail out his team time and time again. But, with just 37 seconds remaining in the period, his luck too would run out.

The Stars would strike again on a Cleveland bench minor for too many men. The puck went on an odd journey off the boards, ricocheting off the corner right in front of an empty Cleveland net. Josh Melnick saw the opportunity and raced in to close Texas’ deficit to 3-2.

Honestly, you can’t blame Thiessen too much for that goal. Any other time, the puck would have rolled around to the back of the net, where he was waiting.

The Monsters were not happy with Baptiste, though. After diving to try and make the save, Thiessen remained on the ice after the goal. On the way to celebrate, Baptiste stepped over Thiessen. Instantly, Meyer and Peeke took exception, with Bayreuter coming in as backup.

Was it a ploy to get under Cleveland’s skin, or was it an innocent move? Only Baptiste knows. Either way, Cleveland was not happy, and tempers were simmering as the period drew to a close.

Third Period

Cooler heads would prevail to start the third. Josh Dunne tried to send a message through multiple well-timed cross-checks to help get the puck out to the neutral zone. Peeke and Bayreuther returned to their smart yet gritty play.

That was not enough to maintain the lead, though. With speed, Damiani hit the post, which sent the puck flying toward the boards by the Monsters bench. Baptiste quickly gained control and banked a shot in off Clendening past Thiessen.

 

Fate tried to smile on the Monsters in the form of an abbreviated 5-on-3 power play almost eight minutes in. Former Monster Derek Barach decided that this wasn’t allowed and ended up getting the Stars their first lead of the night with a short-handed rocket past Thiessen.

That goal was the fourth straight for the Stars.

From that point on, Point was the best player on the ice. He was under a flurry of shots from Cleveland but denied all of them. Granted, he received quite a bit of help from the duo of Dawson Barteaux and Thomas Harley. They prevented Cleveland from getting shots from down low and from setting screens. Plus, Luke Martin would swarm any Monster that dared touch the puck.

The end of the game saw the Monsters fall to the Stars, 4-3.

Post-Game Quotes

“We have an early start tomorrow. All it means is that we have the chance to play a rubber match tomorrow. It’s like a mini-series, and that is what it represents. Both teams will be all geared up to play their third match in four games. It should be a great match.” – Cleveland head coach Mike Eaves

On Cleveland’s special teams’ execution:

“Other than put the puck in the net on the power play, we had some good looks and chances. They gave us energy, they executed the breakout.” – Eaves

Three Stars

Third Star: Foudy (one goal, seven shots, first goal of the season)

Second Star: Baptiste (one goal, one assist, four shots)

First Star: Barach (one goal, game-winning goal, two shots)

Up Next

The Stars and Monsters close out the three-game series at 4:00 on Sunday at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Deana Weinheimer covers the Cleveland Monsters for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHMonsters.

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