CLEVELAND, Ohio- The monkey is officially off the back of Paul Bittner. The 20-year-old found the back of the net for the first time in his professional career, scoring the game-winner against Jean-Francois Berube at the 8:37 mark to give the Cleveland Monsters a 3-2 victory over the Rockford IceHogs.
It wasn’t the most ideal way to get your first goal, but it did the job. As the two teams were battling inside the crease of Berube, the puck was kicked out right to Bittner standing near the left faceoff circle. From there, Bittner wasted no time and fired away a shot that would go right between Berube’s leg and through his five-hole for the score. Bittner let out a roar and pumped his fist, understanding the importance of the moment not only in the game but for the start of his young career.
Not scoring for a year and a half, you want to get that monkey off the back. So it was good to get that off the back, for sure.”
The Monsters had earned an early 2-0 lead within the first few minutes of the second period when Alex Broadhurst found the back of the net at the 13:45 mark in the first period, followed by a Calvin Thurkauf goal forty-six seconds into the second period. Rockford would battle back and tie it up at two apiece following goals by Carl Dahlstrom and Tomas Jurco. It felt as if momentum had swung in favor of Rockford heading into the final twenty minutes of play.
That’s when Bittner struck at the most opportune time and lifted the Monsters to victory.
“It was just a battle in front. The boys were battling hard. Sammy (Sam Vigneault), Miles (Koules) and Camp (Carter Camper) somehow batted it over to me and I was luckily there and just netted it home. I was actually trying to go top-shelf. I just got real lucky with a lucky bounce and batted it home.”
Alex Broadhurst, who started the night’s scoring for Cleveland and found the back of the net for his first goal of the season, talked about the team’s feeling when everybody on the ice gets going for them.
“It’s awesome,” Broadhurst said after the game. “You know, we were struggling early getting goals. It was a special moment for him and obviously huge for our team.”
Cleveland did a great job putting the clamps on the third-ranked Rockford power-play, as they did not allow a single power play goal to the IceHogs. Head Coach John Madden was extremely pleased with that fact and believed that was a main factor in the win tonight:
“It was great. We didn’t have such a good outing the last time we played, cost us the game. So we went over some things and I just love the compete level. That was mostly what was happening was we weren’t competing hard enough and we weren’t taking pride. The guys responded, everybody responded and it was a great effort.”
The Monsters hit the road Friday and take on the Tucson Roadrunners.