Coming into the game the Monsters were sitting comfortably at fourth place in the Northern Division. Cleveland was just two games back of first place as they faced the Utica Comets. This Divisional matchup was the first of the series against Utica. Whoever takes the series can take first place in the division. Some of the Monsters players are having a very efficient season. Juna Luotu is lining up at wing with Emil Bemstrom, who leads the team with 12 goals. Just behind Bemstrom, in goals, is teammate Justin Richards with six. These two make a dangerous pair when on the ice together. As they both excel at creating opportunities for shots as well as taking the shots.
Cleveland lost the opening faceoff to Utica. However, throughout the first period, the Monsters looked great defensively. While not really letting Utica set up inside their Blue. Cleveland even had to kill a power play when Fix-Wolansky was given two minutes in the penalty box for slashing. While in the box, the Comets had four shots on goal. Cleveland spent most of the first period between and inside Utica’s blue Thus they were able to set up a couple of times and get some shots on goal. Cleveland Keeper, Pavel Cajan, was able to block every shot taken on the net through the first. Utica’s keeper was able to do the same. To end the first, Utica had 10 shots on goal to Cleveland’s eight. The game was scoreless.
Just 30 seconds into the second period Cleveland got off to an electrifying start. The Monsters set up and scored a goal right off the faceoff. Richards assisted on the goal from Brandon Davidson for his second goal of the season. Soon after the goal, The Monsters found themselves stuck inside the blue as Utica was able to set up and get off some shots on goal.
Cajan and the rest of the defense stood tall as they broke up many of the shots. Cajan blocked all the others bringing his save total to 14 on the evening. In the 9th minute of the second period, the Monsters found themselves on the powerplay after a hooking call against Mason Geertsen. Only 40 seconds into the power play Bemstrom scored the second goal of the evening. Shortly after that, Cleveland was penalized for high sticking while still on the power play. Thus resulting in a 4v4 on the ice. During the 4v4 Bemstrom scored his second of the night! That brings his goal total to 14 on the season. The Monsters led by a score of 3-0.
At the end of Cleveland’s power play, Utica still had theirs in effect and ended up scoring their first goal of the night. Tyce Thompson scored in the 12th minute of the second period to end the Utica power play. During the end of the period, the Monsters found themselves on a double power play. This carried over to the start of the third period where the Monsters would have a 5-on-4. Through two periods Monsters 3 Comets 1.
Just two minutes into the third and final period Utica scored their second goal of the night. The goal, scored by Graeme Clarke, cut into the Monster’s lead. With a Score of 3-2, Cleveland led and they moved into a more aggressive offensive set. The puck had been deep on the Cleveland side as Utica got set up however, Cajan made a couple of miraculous saves. Those saves held the lead over Utica. The Comets were able to draw another penalty out of the Monsters, two minutes for hooking on Owen Sillinger.
Cleveland’s power play killers were doing an excellent job at preventing a score. Yet, another penalty was called for tripping against Olivier LeBlanc. Utica was working with a 5v3 for 6 seconds and a 5v4 for a full two minutes. Utica was able to get set inside the blue and get a deep shot on goal. However, Cajan was able to stop the shot and kill the power play.
Bemstrom won play of the game on his second goal. While skating away from the net he hit a slapshot into the 1 hole. Jumping back into third-period action, Cleveland laid some “Monster” open ice hits on Utica. Resulting to stop a Utica fast break, ended in a roughing penalty against the teams, after Nolan Foote of Utica got hit hard. Jake Gaudet was penalized for boarding and had to serve two minutes in the box along with Foote.
Utica was able to go on another double powerplay and tie the game at 3-3 while still being on a normal powerplay. As the game progressed the Monster’s defense began to look weaker, after allowing two goals in the third period. With just 14 Seconds left in the game, the Utica Comets scored off of a tip-in goal awarded to Sam LaBerge. Utica took the game out from under Cleveland’s feet.
The Monsters will look forward to the 22nd which is their next meeting. It will be interesting to see the kind of defensive changes that’ll be made on the Cleveland side.
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