Monsters Control Destiny in Season Finale

One team will guarantee itself a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs tonight at Quicken Loans Arena when the Lake Erie Monsters (37-28-3-7) meet their North Division rivals, the Rochester Americans (35-26-10-4). The Monsters are looking to do something they haven’t managed this season: win five consecutive games. Twice this season, they have had four-game winning streaks. The puck drops at 7:30 PM, and if you can’t make it, catch all the action live on ESPN 850 WKNR, with Doug Plagens on the call. The game will without a doubt carry the intensity of a playoff game seven.

The Monsters and Hamilton Bulldogs battled back-and-forth for the first 40 minutes last night at The Q, but Ryan Stoa scored his second of the game early in the third period for the eventual game-winner, and David van der Gulik sealed the deal with his 12th goal of the season to propel the Monsters to a 5-3 home win; their 20th win on home ice this season. Stoa scored twice for the Monsters, and how has 16 goals on the season. The Monsters are 18-4-1-2 when the power forward registers a point, so his current five-goals-in-four-games pace is exactly what the Monsters need this time of year. He’ll be relied upon heavily once again in tonight’s must-win situation for the Monsters.

A host of Monsters had multi-point performances in the win over Hamilton. Tyson Barrie, who hadn’t played a game for the Monsters since February due to a call-up to the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, had a pair of assists to go along with his plus-two rating. Barry Goers had his first multi-point game as a Monster with a pair of helpers, and Greg Mauldin assisted on a pair of goals as well. For the sixth time this season, David van der Gulik had a goal and an assist in the same game, as he chipped in all over the ice. The Monsters are receiving contributions up and down the lineup, which is imperative at this point in the season. Tonight’s game is the 76th and final game of the campaign, everyone is tired, and David Quinn will be counting on everyone to bring the same playoff-type of urgency. There will be zero margin for error between the Monsters and Rochester this evening.

Rochester is coming off a 5-1 home win last night over their arch-rivals from the Eastern Conference, the Syracuse Crunch. Rochester is currently playing some solid hockey as well, unbeaten-in-regulation over their last five contests (3-0-2-0). Rochester enters the day 4-3-3-0 over their last 10 games, and forward Evan Rankin has been on fire, posting eight points over the current five-game streak (Four goals, four assists). Corey Tropp, who returned to Rochester’s lineup on April 7, previously hadn’t played for the Americans since February 22. In four games since his return, he has two goals and three assists. From the blueline, Nick Crawford has a goal and three assists over his last four games. In net for Rochester, David Leggio is the safe bet to start in goal; he has played the entirety of every Americans game since February 22; 22 straight starts. He’s 12-9-1 over that time.

It’s the sixth game of the season series between the two clubs, and the regular season finale for each team. The Monsters have only beaten Rochester once this season, with the remaining four previous games including three Lake Erie regulation losses and one 15-round shootout loss. Tonight, each team controls its own destiny with a victory.

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