SYRACUSE, N.Y. – For the second straight game, the Cleveland Monsters found themselves unable to finish a game in regulation. Less than a week ago, it was a shootout loss in Toronto. On the road in Syracuse, would the ghosts of games past come back to haunt them?
Fueling the Monsters were the returns of goaltender Daniil Tarasov (unavailable last three games) and Justin Danforth, who was just returned from a recall by the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Cole Clayton also made his professional debut on Friday night at the Upstate Medical University Arena.
Cleveland found themselves struggling early, kicked off by a Tim Berni slashing call just 39 seconds into the match. Syracuse took that early advantage and dominated, keeping Cleveland out of the zone and limiting passing and shooting lanes.
This game quickly fell into a woodchipper as players started rotating in and out of the penalty boxes. There were six penalties between the two teams in the first period alone, good for 18 penalty minutes.
Syracuse continued with the physical play, using their bodies and sticks to disrupt practically every play Cleveland tried to set up.
Cleveland’s Billy Sweezy seemed to take the team on his back, especially notable on his thundering hip-check against Gabriel Fortier.
As the minutes ticked down, the play on the ice became more frantic. Syracuse took advantage, pushing around the Cleveland forwards.
Ultimately, it ended with a Gage Goncalves goal with just 1:02 remaining in the period. He eyed a loose puck fresh off a Tarasov rebound and flipped it over the goalie’s stick.
— Deana Weinheimer (@FPHMonsters) October 29, 2021
Cleveland went from looking frantic to almost timid when they returned from the ice after the first intermission. They had multiple high-danger chances, including a two-on-one, where they elected to pass instead of shooting on an opening net.
That’s when Cole Cassels stepped him. He became a one-person swarm, using his stick and body to force control, and had a couple of almost-goals, including one off of his own rebound.
In the second, the goalies started trading highlight-reel saves. Tarasov had to fight several point-blank shots by the Crunch. Meanwhile, Syracuse goaltender Hugo Alnefelt managed to get a right pad off of a streaking Adam Helewka.
To round out the scoreless period, Remi Elie and Sweezy came together after a hit and had a bit of a tussle.
Remi Elie lays a crunching hit on CLE's Billy Sweezy. Sweezy takes exception and decides to handle it himself.
— Deana Weinheimer (@FPHMonsters) October 30, 2021
This game looked to be firmly in control of Syracuse, with 26 shots to Cleveland’s 16 and a one-goal lead heading into the second intermission.
Whatever was done or said in that Monsters locker room obviously worked. In the opening minutes of the third, Tyler Sikura started off a strong shift for Cleveland by getting a shot in on Alnefelt. Then, Cleveland regained control and cycled the puck out to Jake Christiansen, who was walking the blue line. He burned it towards the goal, where Kevin Stenlund tipped it home for his first of the season at 1:45.
Syracuse wouldn’t go away and found a quick response. Just one minute later, Antoine Morand and Fortier took off on a two-on-one with Dillon Simpson, the lone Monsters’ defender on the rush. Morand fed Fortier, who chipped it in on a sprawling Tarasov.
Cleveland started to coast and almost looked to lose some spark after that Crunch goal. Sean Day, Shawn Element, and Elie looked to be armed with spring-loaded legs and jumped on every play that Cleveland slightly let up on.
Then, Danforth did a bit of cleaning up and put away a loose puck that was sitting just outside the crease. Clayton received his first pro point on that goal with the second assist.
Justin Danforth with the equalizer in his first game back from his #CBJ recall. Right place, right time to clean up the bobbling puck.
Cole Clayton gets his first pro point on this goal with the 2nd assist.
— Deana Weinheimer (@FPHMonsters) October 30, 2021
From there on out, both teams looked much more evenly matched. But it was definitely a battle of the goalies up until the final regulation horn.
Honestly, there wasn’t much action in overtime. It seemed like most of the time was spent cycling in the neutral zone, trying to set up the perfect play.
But, Cleveland did get one golden chance when Stenlund and Danforth went in on a two-on-one opportunity. Syracuse’s Jesse Lees blocked that one with his face and immediately went off to the bench.
Otherwise, it was a pretty uneventful five minutes of overtime.
Goncalves scored the lone goal in the shootout, giving Syracuse the 3-2 win in front of 3,967 fans.
Tarasov looked much better than when we first saw him on opening weekend. Whatever kept him out during last weekend’s three-in-three might have played into that rough start. But he can’t save everything. He needs more consistent effort from his skaters- both on offense and defense.
I’m shocked that Thomas Schemitsch still has not scored a goal. He sure seems to be making more than his fair share of shots on net for a defenseman. You’d think he’d be rewarded soon, right?
Cleveland needs to get their power play figured out. They were 0/4 on Friday night and are only producing at 12.5% on the season. That’s 23rd in the league. On the flip side, the penalty kill is cranking along at 90.5%.
Syracuse seems to be finding their groove. Players like Jimmy Huntington (averaging a point per game) leads the team in scoring. Thanks to the physical play of Day and Elie, along with the stick skills of Fortier, they are proving to be quite the formidable foe.
Congratulations to Crunch players Simon Ryfors (first AHL assist) and Morand (played in his 100th AHL game), and Monsters defenseman Clayton (first pro game and pro point) for their milestones in Friday’s game!
Stat of the Game
There were 15 penalties, totaling 48 penalty minutes in this game.
If you add the jersey numbers of the two Syracuse goal scorers- you get 48.
Cleveland continues on their second three-in-three trip as they travel to Hershey to face the Bears on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
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