Monsters Go Back-to-Back with Heat

Back-to-back divisional matchups are up next for the Lake Erie Monsters (4-2-0-0) as they welcome in the Abbotsford Heat (3-0-0-1) for 7:30 PM puck drops Friday and Saturday night.  The Monsters are coming off a four-game stretch of road games in which they won three of the four games, and the Heat enters the weekend as they only Western Conference team without a regulation loss on the young season.  Overall, Abbotsford is one of four teams in the American Hockey League to not lose in regulation thus far.

Abbotsford boasts a great deal of offensive ability, but the Monsters have spent a majority of the early-going battling what was believed to be the best collection of offensive talent in the AHL in the Oklahoma City Barons.  Last time out, the Monsters fell to Oklahoma City 4-3, and the Barons needed power plays to score all four of their goals against the Monsters.  Moral of the story: the Monsters will need to stay out of the box this weekend.  Abbotsford has the league’s top power play through four games played at 37.5%.
Power play success will also be key for the Monsters, who have scored at least one power play goal in five consecutive games.  However, Abbotsford also leads the league in penalty killing; they haven’t allowed a power play goal in 13 times shorthanded, which makes them the only club in the league that hasn’t surrendered a power play goal to this point.  It’s only a four-game sample, but the Heat has been strong early in the season.

The Monsters depth, though, has proven to be an asset that can help them overcome almost any obstacle early in the season.  Tyson Barrie and Thomas Pock, who are among the Monsters leaders in points with five and seven respectively, will need to be precise in leading the Monsters breakouts and attack.  Pock has a four-game point streak intact, and the same goes for Andrew Agozzino, who has two goals and two assists over his last four games.  Karl Stollery has a three-game point streak for the Monsters, as well.

Bryan Lerg, though, based on his performance over the last couple games- especially with his work around the net- is the player to watch for the Monsters entering the weekend.  He scored his first of the season in the 4-0 win in Texas on Sunday, then scored twice in the Monsters 4-3 loss in Oklahoma City Tuesday night.

Overall, he has three of the Monsters last four goals, and has noticeably established himself as a go-to guy.
Abbotsford has a few players to watch: former Monster Ben Walter, who still sits among the Monsters all-time leaders in assists and points, is off to a great start with seven points in four games.  Dustin Sylvester, who is also a former Monster (Three games, no points in 2009-10), has five points in four games, and Roman Horak has a goal in each of Abbotsford’s four games this season.  However, each season, the American Hockey League has a few prospects who are destined for potential stardom, and Abbotsford’s Sven Baertschi appears to be on that path.

Baertshi picked up 94 points in 47 games during his final season with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks last season, and has six points through four games to start this season.  The 20-year-old from Switzerland was the 13th overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft, and saw five games in the NHL last season for Calgary, registering three goals.

The Monsters and Heat hit the ice at 7:30 PM Friday and Saturday, with Friday’s action being carried live on AM 1220 WHKW and Saturday’s game live on Newstalk 1420 WHK, as well as on FOX Sports Ohio.

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