Monsters Set to Battle the Barons

After five days off, the Lake Erie Monsters (2-1-0-0) return to the ice this evening in Oklahoma City where they will meet the Barons (2-1-0-0) for the third time on the young season. All of tonight’s action, live from the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, can be heard live on Newstalk 1420 WHK. The Monsters, who are coming off a 4-0 victory over Toronto on Sunday, will meet a talented Oklahoma City club that opened its home schedule a night ago with a 5-2 victory over the San Antonio Rampage.

Several bright spots emerged from the Monsters opening weekend three-games-in-three-days stretch, which was capped off by the shutout victory against Toronto. First of all, the goaltending was very solid; Calvin Pickard earned his first professional shutout on Sunday, and Sami Aittokallio earned his first North American professional win in the season opener, turning away 29 of 30 shots against the Barons. The Monsters penalty kill, while it has been tested more frequently than the team would like, is 25-26 through three games, including a perfect 12-12 performance against Toronto last time out. As a whole, the Monsters outscored the opposition 8-4 over the first three games of the season, and two of the goals the Monsters did allow were the result of unfortunate deflections.

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the Monsters attack, however, is the fact that it has been nicely spread out and very evenly distributed in the very early going. While the Monsters did muster just 18 shots against Toronto, the Monsters shots leaders in the game were tied with two shots apiece. Sure, they’d like to see the shot totals higher, but it was the final game of a three-in-three, the Monsters were opportunistic and took control of the game in the first period, and the offense is coming from several sources.

Tyson Barrie, a defenseman, leads the team with two goals, and remains a focal point for the Monsters in all phases of the game. His goal Sunday in Toronto was the second of the game for the Monsters, and was truly a highlight-reel goal. Thomas Pock, another defenseman providing a good offensive punch- he leads the Monsters in points with four through three games- has shown to be steady at both ends of the ice, and plays with a confident demeanor.

Oklahoma City has won two of its first three games as well, and they have a solid roster through-and-through. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are the names that jump off the paper, but Justin Schultz is the player the Monsters may most need to neutralize on the Barons side. Schultz scored the game-winner against the Monsters last Saturday in the Barons 3-2 win at The Q, and he chipped in a pair of goals last night in Oklahoma City’s win over San Antonio. He has a wrist shot that is very dangerous from the tops of the circles, and he gets the puck away in a hurry. He’s steady defensively, too.

The game marks the second of four straight road contests for the Monsters, who are looking for consecutive wins. Oklahoma City is also looking to string together back-to-back wins for the first time on the young season. It’s the third of four meetings between the two teams in the four-game season series, which concludes in Oklahoma City on Tuesday when the Monsters conclude the current string of road games. After tonight’s game, the Monsters head south to take on the Texas Stars Sunday at 6:00 PM, with that action being heard on AM 1220 WHKW.

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