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Cleveland Monsters

Cleveland Monsters

Monday Monster Mash: 12/12/2022

Monday Monster Mash: 12/12/2022

CLEVELAND – Monsters fans certainly didn’t have to look far for something to watch this weekend. The Cleveland Monsters posted a 1-2-0-0 record in their second three-in-three this season, featuring matchups against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears. This weekend was an intense test for the Monsters, who have, for the most part, enjoyed a schedule that has featured games against teams with a similar profile as Cleveland – high-octane offenses with less emphasis on the defensive side of things. That couldn’t have been less of the case against the Penguins and the Bears, and the Monsters found that out quickly on Friday.

The Week that Was

There’s no denying that Cleveland has the capability to score at will. However, they’re not going to win many games when forced to score nine goals, which is exactly what happened on Friday against the Penguins. Perhaps the turning point in this one came at the 19:55 mark of the first when Nathan Légaré gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead going into the second. The Monsters had outshot the Penguins 13-10 in the first and came close to drawing first blood, but Filip Lindberg had other ideas, which didn’t stop after the first.

Cliché at times, it’s hard to overstate just how much momentum a team can build by scoring in the first or last minute of a period. That’s exactly how the Penguins ended the first and started the second. Drew O’Connor opened the scoring at 0:50 of the second, but the Monsters responded quickly. Less than a minute after O’Connor’s goal, Justin Richards scored his sixth of the season. Unfortunately for the Monsters, that would be the first and only Cleveland goal of the game, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton showing no mercy. O’Connor added his second of the night to make it 3-1, followed by goals from Corey Andonovski, Drake Caggiula, Alexander Nylander, Jonathan Gruden, and Valtteri Puustinen. Daniil Tarasov was pulled after Caggiula’s goal made it 5-1, and Jet Greaves finished this one off, allowing three goals of his own before being called up to Columbus – more on that later.

Surely, Cleveland wanted to get out of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as quickly as possible, as they traveled to the chocolate capital of the USA, Hershey, Pennsylvania, where they faced an arguably taller order against the Bears. Field Pass Hockey’s Corey Swartz provided thorough analysis of the Monsters’ 3-2 loss against the Bears on Saturday and their epic come-from-behind shootout win against Hershey on Sunday.

A side note: Cleveland’s win on Sunday secured the 500th win in franchise history. The Monsters’ matchup against the Bears on Sunday was the club’s 1,117 regular season game, where they have posted a record of 500-471-68-78, good for a .578 points percentage in franchise history.

The Week to Come

Cleveland will start the week at third in the North Division, where they have sat comfortably this season. Syracuse is creeping behind, taking advantage of Cleveland’s rocky weekend in Pennsylvania. The Laval Rocket will come to Cleveland on Saturday for the first of a back-to-back between the two squads, and for Cleveland, it will be an excellent chance to regroup after a rough weekend. Laval has occupied the North Division cellar all season, although they’re coming off of a weekend series against Belleville, where they snagged three out of four points. Perhaps they’ll come to Cleveland with renewed energy?

Laval has already given up 100 goals this season, an average of four goals per game. Cleveland will have to test either Kevin Poulin or rookie goaltender Joe Vrbetic early and often – Cayden Primeau has been out of the lineup for the Rocket, and Vrbetic picked up his first AHL win against Belleville last weekend. The puck will drop on Saturday at 11 a.m. and at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Of note, Sunday’s matchup against the Rocket features Cleveland’s Teddy Bear Toss, so it’ll be one fans will not want to miss.

Who’s Tending the Goal?

Unfortunately, Columbus’ goaltenders have been bitten by the injury bug all season long, which hasn’t allowed for any consistency in net for the Monsters. Recently, a Joonas Korpisalo injury forced Columbus to recall Greaves during Cleveland’s three-in-three. Pavel Čajan was able to get a start against the Bears, but Columbus’ decision to call up Greaves instead of Tarasov allowed Tarasov to get some much-needed time in net in Cleveland. That being said, Columbus flipped Greaves and Tarasov on Monday, calling up Tarasov and sending down Greaves ahead of their road trip to Florida and Boston, featuring games against Florida on Tuesday, Tampa Bay on Thursday, and Boston on Saturday.

To me, the only acceptable reason to recall Tarasov in a situation like this is if Columbus plans to give him the start on Tuesday or Thursday and send him back down to start at least one of the two games against Laval this coming weekend. It has been impossible to establish a rhythm in net in Cleveland, and while Tarasov has looked solid in his starts in Columbus – he has posted the best stats of any CBJ goaltender – having an established role for him this season is incredibly important for his development.

If the plan is to sit him behind Elvis Merzlikins for the three-game road trip, well, this writer would urge the Jackets to reconsider. It’s possible that Korpisalo could be healthy by the time Saturday rolls around, and this whole tirade is in vain, but the moral of the story is that the Blue Jackets have seemingly identified Tarasov as their top goaltending prospect – they need to make transaction decisions with that in mind.

They Grow Up So Fast

Kirill Marchenko has been a significant piece of Columbus’ two-game win streak. Marchenko picked up his first NHL goal and point on Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings, but it will be interesting to see how head coach Brad Larsen continues to use Marchenko. Marchenko has only seen considerable ice time in one game, against the Buffalo Sabres, which was a 9-4 loss that left everyone in Columbus hitting the panic button. In his four games, his time on ice has been 10:03 (PIT), 17:14 (BUF), 9:16 (CGY), and 11:08 (LAK). It has been clear in Cleveland that when Marchenko is given a significant role, he performs – it’ll be interesting to see if Columbus offers him the same opportunity moving forward. If they don’t, there’s a team up I-71 North that would gladly welcome his talents back to the Land.

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 2023 season!

    Jeremy Paul is in his first season covering the Rochester Americans for Field Pass Hockey. You can follow him and interact with him on Twitter @FPHAmericans.

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