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Rochester Downs Cleveland in Redemption Match

Rochester Downs Cleveland in Redemption Match

CLEVELAND – After a flurry of goals leading to a close victory on Friday, hopes were high in Cleveland on Saturday, leading into the back-to-back rematch against the Rochester Americans. Despite the swelling emotion from the crowd and plenty of physicality, the Cleveland Monsters were unable to mount a comeback, falling to the Americans 6-2.

First Period

Hanging over the heads of the Monsters in the first period was one mantra: limit Rochester’s opportunities. Just 24 hours earlier, they saw Friday night’s goalie, Cam Johnson, face a franchise record of goals in any period: 24. So, if they wanted to eke out a victory, they needed to help out Jet Greaves.

The Amerks managed to claim some sustained zone presence early and often. Though, the Monsters wouldn’t go down that easy. Both Tim Berni and Billy Sweezy set the pace, hitting anyone in a white jersey. JJ Peterka got the scoring started 2:55 into the game, picking up right where he left off on Friday night with his fourth goal on the weekend. It was a precision shot immediately off the faceoff right past Greaves.

Cleveland dialed up the intensity in response. Newcomer Owen Sillinger had the first of multiple opportunities while Trey Fix-Wolansky tried to set up plays. Sillinger looks to be a potential vital key in the roster next season once he gets more familiar with the organization and his linemates. Fast, crafty, and skilled. Postgame, Monsters assistant coach Trent Vogelhuber was asked about the play of Sillinger and other newcomer Roman Ahcan:

“They’re great kids who work their tails off. They both have different qualities that we’re going to be able to use next year. They’ve shown that they can play at this level and they’re not even comfortable yet, right? So, they’re still getting there. And for them, this last bit is super important to show that they can get comfortable and can play in this league. It gives them some confidence going into next year.”

As the period drew to a close, the Amerks’ Sean Malone scored two goals just 2:21 apart. Both looked quite similar: a tip from the doorstep.

Basically, Rochester played like they are in the playoff hunt. Jumping on the puck, playing smart, and not playing frustrated. The Monsters? Not so much.

Second Period

Disconnected was the word of the 2nd period for the Monsters. Passes to the wrong team, turnovers, bouncing pucks over sticks- Cleveland just couldn’t get it together. However, despite that, they were able to get the first two shots of the period on net.

But, it was another tip down on Greaves’ doorstep to extend the Rochester lead. This time, it was Arttu Ruotsalainen’s turn. But, there was still a glimmer of hope reverberating around the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. After all, the night before, it was the Monsters that had rushed out to a 4-0 lead, just to see that disappear late in the game.

I have to give special recognition to both Jake Gaudet and Carson Meyer. While on a Cole Cassels penalty kill, Gaudet managed to break up a long Amerks’ zone possession while Cleveland was on the long change. He managed to control the puck and speed into the Rochester zone, giving the rest of his PK unit time to switch out. This was key as they were exhausted, having skated close to 90 seconds on one shift.

That also set up Meyer to get a couple quick shots on Aaron Dell as the penalty expired.

Meyer was dominant with the puck most of the game. Even though only two shots showed up on the scoresheet, he had numerous other opportunities and chances.

Then, things came unglued. The fans were in fine voice as they shared their ire with the officiating crew following multiple uncalled cross-checks from Michael Mersch to Robbie Payne.

Mark Jankowski closed out scoring for the period thanks to a great individual effort that left the Cleveland defense speechless.

Third Period

Rochester got the third started with some more zone time and dazzling offensive chances. After 5:39 of seemingly total domination, Rochester rookie phenoms Jack Quinn and Peterka jump on an odd-man rush to team up, leading to Peterka’s 22nd of the season.

Things started to turn around for Cleveland, thanks to Cassels, who ended Dell’s shutout bid off a power-play tally. Though, it was ultimately thanks to Cole Fonstad that this play even happened. The puck was speeding along the boards, quickly approaching the neutral zone. Fonstad hustled back to keep the puck in play and found Cassels.

The third was a neverending parade to the penalty box for both teams.

Then, dramatics.

After a marathon session without a whistle, play was called with one second remaining. The faceoff was set up at the dot to Dell’s left. Gaudet wins the faceoff with Ahcan scrambling to the puck and managed to both get the shot off and get it into the net- all in under one second.

And that, my friends, is why you play until the final horn. Though it didn’t impact the outcome, this goal proves that one second is enough to get a tally.

Postgame Quote

After the game, I asked assistant coach Vogelhuber about the loss and what the message is as the team is coming upon the final 12 games of the season.

“The message is that we’re pro hockey players and we’re a pro hockey team. You’re paid to show up to the games and give your 100% effort. I don’t care what the standings say. I don’t care how much time’s left in the season or isn’t left in the season. You’re expected to come and work,” Vogelhuber said postgame. “It’s one thing about the American League. No matter what the standings look like you always have something to prove, right? Whether that’s a new contract, or whether you’re trying to prove something to staff and management, there’s always something there. So, now we have 12 games left and we’re gonna do our best to make sure the guys understand that, and that we get the best effort possible down to the very last one.

Closing Thoughts

It was definitely a rough night for this Monsters squad.

What I don’t understand is that this team had a system and plays that worked incredibly well last season and to start this season. They could’ve played for something really special. Then, in December, it all fell apart. For whatever reason, probably because of roster limitations, they went away from that.

Honestly, why would they do that? Just because they switched divisions? Because they were down players? Well, all of the players are back so why didn’t the strategy change? Long gone are the days of the Fix-Wolansky one-timers on the power play or Tyler Sikura setting up just outside the crease… you know, stuff that actually worked.

Up Next

The Mosnters hit the road, with games against Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, and Chicago this week.

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 is a Managing Editor, podcast host, and covers the American Hockey League for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHAHL.

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