The View From the Booth

Hello again hockey fans and welcome to the latest edition of “The View From The Booth”. I hope you all had a great holiday season and you are enjoying a great start to 2011. This season is zooming by fast and the Monsters are coming off a recent stretch of their best hockey of the season. It’s been awesome to be right there with our players and staff through this season.

Our guys had a five-game win streak from January 14th to January 22nd. The streak started at the back end of our 2nd seven-game road trip of the season. The first win was in Rochester and it featured Mike Carman scoring his AHL best sixth shorthanded goal of the season. What a first full pro season Carman is having. He’s been absolutely amazing on the Monsters highly-ranked penalty kill with second year pro Justin Mercier.

Mark Olver, another first year pro, started his best and the Monsters best goal scoring streak of the season in that 3-1 win at Rochester. Olver scored at least one goal in each game of the Monsters five-game win streak. His first goal in the streak was a great setup by veteran Patrick Rissmiller, who’s been a great addition to our team since he was loaned to Lake Erie from Chicago in November. Rissmiller and Olver have really formed a nice duo and they have really good chemistry on the ice. Olver scored Lake Erie’s game-winning goal in Rochester on January 16th. Listen to the call:

In game two of the five-game win streak, the Monsters traveled to Hershey, Pa, a six-hour bus ride following the win at Rochester. Six hours is yes, a long time on a bus in the middle of the night, but that’s life and reality in the American Hockey League. I can tell you this, it doesn’t feel like six hours after a win. When the team loses and you have that ride, it feels like about eight hours. As for the game at Hershey, it was an incredible effort by our guys in the second and third periods. It didn’t look good after the first period, but over the final 40 minutes, our guys were hungrier and faster than the home squad Hershey Bears, who were playing in front of a sellout crowd.

For me personally, the biggest moment behind the mic so far in my time with the Monsters was when Justin Mercier scored an overtime winner against Texas in January of 2010, in front of 18,626, the biggest crowd in Monsters history. But when captain Ben Walter scored with 40.7 seconds left at Hershey to tie the game at 2-2, that moment was equally as exciting and memorable for me as Mercier’s goal. As I say to my friends, “I came out of my shoes” on that goal call. Listen to the call:

It was awesome. The Giant Center crowd of nearly 11,000 was stunned and the building was silent.

Then in the shootout, Olver and Rissmiller led the offense, while crafty veteran John Grahame held the fort in net for his second road shootout win of the season. Speaking of Grahame, he was absolutely great during the five-game win streak. He was calm, cool and collected, and our team responded to Grahame’s “calming presence” in the net the entire time. John is a great guy who I have a lot of respect for. He’s done it all in hockey, and in his mid 30’s, he continues to play the game he loves, which is awesome.

So from Hershey it was back to the bus. The ride back to Rochester was 90 minutes shorter than the ride from Rochester to Hershey, and it felt like about three hours on the way back.

Sunday in Rochester was the Monsters final game in the always grueling and challenging three games in three days gauntlet. It always amazes me how players recover and regroup in such a short time in those three-in-three weekends. To me, having witnessed our guys go through it, it’s the ultimate challenge in sports. I tip my hat to our guys, especially on this one, because they came through with another win, this one a 6-4 victory over the Amerks at Blue Cross Arena. Mark Olver scored two goals, including the game winner midway through the third period, and it was then back to the bus for a four-hour and 15 minute ride back to Cleveland.

On Tuesday, January 18th, the Monsters faced the Oklahoma City Barons for the sixth and final time this season. The Monsters were once again on their A-game with a 3-1 win. Olver scored again, as did Ryan Stoa, one of my favorite guys on the team, and it was the next day Ryan was called up to the Avs. Mike Carman also scored in the win. John Grahame was again solid, steady and consistent in the net for the Monsters and Grahame’s fourth straight win.

On Thursday, January 20th, Rochester came to town and the Monsters sent puck after puck at rookie goaltender Jacob Markstrom. He was dialed in for 55 minutes of the game until the Monsters finally got to him on a goal by David van der Gulik. It was the rebound of a T.J. Galiardi slap shot from the top of the circle, and the Monsters hard work paid off as they tied the game at 1-1.

In overtime, Mark Olver came through again with the game winner midway through the extra session. He went top shelf, high glove to beat Markstrom and give the Monsters the win, a franchise-tying best, five-game win streak. Listen to the call:

What a run it was, a run that helped the Monsters move right into the thick of the North Division playoff race.

As all streaks do, Lake Erie's eventually came to an end. The Monsters faced Houston on Saturday, January 22nd at The Q, in what was a playoff-like feel with nearly 12,000 in our building. The two teams are very similar, but the Aeros won the game 2-1, thus ending an amazing and truly exciting five-game win streak.

With Toronto coming to town Wednesday, the Monsters will play an incredibly huge game against the Mariles, who entering the game, will hold a two-point lead on the Monsters in the standings. Then it’s off to Hamilton to face a team the Monsters have beaten twice at home this season and lost to twice in Hamilton in a pair of one-goal games – games that were flat out won by the Hamilton goalies late in regulation.

Saturday night Hamilton comes calling to The Q, and then the all-star break will be here. It’s such an exciting time right now for the Monsters and our great fans. It’s awesome to be in the playoff hunt with roughly 30 games left in the season, and I have every reason to believe our team can continue its solid play and remain in the hunt and eventually make the playoffs this season!

I hope to see you at The Q for one of our games this week, and as always you can reach me at noholdenback@lakeeriemonsters.com. I would love to hear from you and I strongly encourage you to continue to cheer our guys on!!!

Sincerely,
Ben Holden.


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