Looking Back, A Season in Review

A season after their first trip to the playoffs in franchise history, the 2011-12 Lake Erie Monsters fell just one game short of a second straight trip to the postseason. Ending the season at home against the rival Rochester Americans with a game-seven atmosphere in the building, the Monsters fell victim to a standout goaltending performance in a 2-1 defeat, just missing the playoffs. The latest edition of the Monsters finished with a record of 37-29-3-7 and a total of 84 points; a mark that placed them third in the five-team North Division, and 10th in the Western Conference. Considering the obstacles overcome by the team, the hard-working bunch has a lot to show for the campaign.

Beginning the season with a young group, the Monsters fell in regulation in each of their first five games, and it wasn’t until the seventh game of the season that the club would pick up its first victory. Veteran forward Patrick Rissmiller and starting goaltender Cedrick Desjardins were injured to start the year, as was former AHL All-Star Mark Olver. Names like Gerald Coleman, Barry Goers, and Peter MacArthur- key contributors down the stretch- were not yet in the mix.

On October 22 and 23, however, the Monsters laid the groundwork for a few of the common themes of the season. It was on those two days, in Syracuse and Toronto respectively, that they earned their first two victories of the season. Both of the games were overtime finishes; the Monsters played a franchise record 43 one-goal games in 2011-12, breaking the team record set the previous season with 39. The Monsters went 23-10-3-7 in one-goal games. Furthermore, the overtime winners in the two games were the first professional goals scored by Stefan Elliott and Tyson Barrie; two players with high NHL hopes who, when they weren’t anchoring the Monsters blueline, were getting their feet wet with the parent club in Colorado. Other players who saw action in both Lake Erie and Colorado this season: Evan Brophey, Mike Connolly, Brad Malone, Mark Olver, and David van der Gulik. Desjardins’ services were also called upon, but the goaltender, who ended the season ranked third in goals against average (2.11) and tops in save percentage (.932), did not see game action.

The two wins also showed the streakiness the team would exhibit during the season. The most recent installment of the Monsters managed a 5-0-1-2 record during a franchise-record eight-game unbeaten in regulation streak from February 25 to March 16; a 6-0-0-1 record over a seven-game unbeaten-in-regulation streak from January 28 to February 15; and a pair of four-game winning streaks, as well as a seven-game winning streak at Quicken Loans Arena from January 28 to March 4.

Notable Moments from the 2011-12 season:

10/30/11 vs. Toronto: Cedrick Desjardins stops 29 shots in his Monsters debut, shutting out the eventual North Division Champion Toronto Marlies 4-0. Eric Hunter, who’s first professional goal came two days earlier against Toronto, scores for the second straight game.

11/10/11 vs. San Antonio: Ryan Stoa becomes the Monsters all-time goal scoring leader. His 40th tally as a Monsters moved him past T.J. Hensick and Matt Ford. Stoa finished the season with 55 goals in his career as a Monster.

11/11/11 vs. San Antonio: Before a crowd of 9,613, Evan Brophey, who finished the season as the Monsters leader in points with 39 points, nets a hat trick against Rampage goalie Jacob Markstrom, one of the NHL’s top goaltending prospects.

11/25/11 vs. Hamilton: David van der Gulik extends his assist streak to a team-high five games in a 5-1 win over Hamilton; a total that would remain the team’s season record.

11/26/11 @ Hershey: After trailing 3-1 after one period, the Monsters storm back to take a 5-4 road win before 9.901 at a sold-out Giant Center in Hershey. Justin Mercier gave the Monsters their first lead of the game, scoring on the power play at 9:33 of the third period. After the Bears’ Graham Mink tied the game with 53 seconds left, Monsters forward Brad Malone poked home a loose puck on a diving effort with 20 seconds remaining to propel the Monsters to victory.

12/21/11 @ Rochester: Justin Mercier skates in his 174th game as a Monster, passing former Monsters defenseman Ray Macias to move into first place on the team’s all-time games played list. Mercier ended the season as the only player to dress in all 76 Monsters games, leaving his total number of games played as a Monster at 220.

12/28/11 vs. Grand Rapids: In a wild game at The Q, the Monsters see a 4-0 lead evaporate, before eventually winning in overtime when rookie defenseman Tyson Barrie nets the game-winner just 35 seconds into the extra frame giving the Monsters a 6-5 win; the Monsters most expedient overtime finish on the season.

12/29/11 vs. Toronto: Despite setting franchise records for fewest shots on net in a game (11) and fewest shots in a period (Just one in the third), the Monsters manage to defeat Toronto with a 25-save effort from Trevor Cann.

1/21/12 vs. Oklahoma City: The Monsters biggest crowd of the season- 17,109 on ‘Cleveland Rocks Night’- witness the Monsters falling 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Barons, who finished the season with the best record in the Western Conference.

2/15/12 vs. Texas: In the annual ‘Student Education Day’, goalie Gerald Coleman becomes the only Monsters goalie over the season to win four straight starts, as the Monsters top Texas 4-3. Coleman was signed to a professional tryout contract by the Monsters in January, and carried a record of 11-4-2 while with Lake Erie.

2/17/12 @ Rochester: Patrick Rissmiller scores a goal for the fourth straight game, tying a season best for a Monster. The goal also extends Rissmiller’s point streak to six games; another team-best for the season. The Monsters, however, fall in Rochester by a 6-2 score.

2/20/12 @ Toronto: Goalie Gerald Coleman starts his 12th straight game in net; a club record. Over the 12 games, Coleman was 8-3-0-1.

2/25/12 @ Rochester: Capping off a three-games-in-three-nights stretch that saw the Monsters play Thursday at The Q, Friday in Grand Rapids, and Saturday in Rochester, the Monsters fall 4-3 in a shootout that lasts 15 rounds. Gerald Coleman was in net for the Monsters, allowing three goals on 15 shootout attempts, while his counterpart David Leggio allowed just two goals to 15 shooters.

3/24/12 vs. Toronto: On ‘Pink the Rink’ Night, the Monsters square off against the division-leading Toronto Marlies for the 10th and final time in the campaign. In one of the best back-and-forth hockey games all season, the Monsters fall 1-0 in a shootout. In a netminding matchup between two of the league’s top-three in goals against average, the Monsters Cedrick Desjardins and Toronto’s Ben Scrivens each earn shutouts, stopping 29 and 36 shots respectively.

4/1/12 @ Texas: The Monsters top the Texas Stars 8-4, setting a new franchise record for goals scored in a game. Colorado goaltending prospect Calvin Pickard, fresh off the end of his junior season in the Western Hockey League, gets his first professional victory in the game.

4/6/12 vs. Rockford: Brad Malone scores the eventual game-winning goal for the Monsters in a 2-1 win over the IceHogs, giving the rookie forward six game-winners on the season. His six game-winners place him fourth all-time on the Monsters leaderboards.

4/7/12 vs. Rockford: After trailing 3-0 late in the second period, the Monsters score once before the end of the second, and add three unanswered third period goals to top the IceHogs 4-3, keeping their playoff hopes alive. The Monsters tied a season-best scoring three power play goals in the win.

4/13/12 vs. Hamilton: Ryan Stoa is credited with the game-winning goal, giving him nine career game-winners as a Monster; a new team record.

4/14/12 vs. Rochester: The Monsters fall 2-1 to Rochester, despite out-shooting the Americans 36-26. A victory would have assured the Monsters a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

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