Rally Comes Up Short Against Champs

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The Lake Erie Monsters faced perhaps their biggest challenge of the season to date when the defending Calder Cup champion, Chicago Wolves, came to Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday night. The Monsters rallied to score three goals in the last 15 minutes of the third period, but came up short, dropping the contest by a final of 5-4.

“The overall team’s game improved tonight, but we obviously did not put up a full game, especially giving up five goals, and being down 4-1. It’s tough for any team to come back from,” said team captain Brian Willsie. “We had a very strong third period, but we can’t get down that much and expect to come back against a first place team like Chicago.”

The Monsters got off to a quick start, as Willsie, in his first game back after a three-game layoff, extended his league-leading goal streak at home, now at six consecutive games. Willsie delivered on a 5-on-3 just 4:33 into the game. Holding the puck in the high slot, Willsie unleashed a slap shot, beating Wolves goaltender Dan Turple glove side to give the Monsters an early lead. Ray Macias and Phil Dupuis earned assists on the goal.

“It felt great to be back on the ice,” said Willsie. “I felt very good out there, but I still need to make improvements.”

Less than two minutes later, Wolves forward Jordan LaVallee tied the game at one, deking Monsters goalie Jason Bacashihua out of his crease and sliding the puck into an unoccupied net. Just less than six minutes later, Joey Crabb would score shorthanded. As Wolves defenseman Jamie Rivers streaked down Bacashihua’s left side and tried to deke the Monsters goalie to the forehand, Bacashihua made the initial save, deflecting the puck behind his net. But the goaltender would find himself out of his net. With the Monsters goalie scrambling to recover, Rivers found Crabb in front of the net, who would one time the feed into a wide open cage.

Bacashihua would open the second period strong, making many several key saves while shorthanded, but the Wolves would open the scoring at 17:15 on a Joe Motzko wrist shot that deflected off the glove of Bacashihua and into the Monsters net. The Wolves would cap the second period scoring as well, pushing their lead to 4-1. Skating into the Monsters zone, Brett Sterling pulled up on the left wall, finding Matt Anderson skating right toward the net. With the puck on his stick and one-on-one with Bacashihua, Anderson snapped it over the shoulder of the Monsters goalie and underneath the cross bar to put the Monsters down by three. Chicago also began the third period strong, adding to their lead only 1:10 into the final frame. Standing in front of the net, Riley Holzapfel stuffed home a Colin Stuart rebound, sliding the puck under the arm of a sprawled out Bacashihua.

Facing a four-goal deficit with under 19 minutes remaining, the Monsters went to work quickly, pressing the Chicago zone, getting quality scoring chances. The team would finally solve the Wolves suffocating defense on Marty Sertich’s second goal of the season in his first game back after missing the past three. Standing off to the left of Turple, Sertich received a cross-ice feed from Willsie. After his initial shot was blocked by a Wolves defender in front, Sertich put the puck low on the short side, putting the Monsters behind by three. Derek Peltier was credited with the second assist on the goal.

It would take more than 11 minutes, but the Monsters would cut the Wolves lead to two on Chris Stewart’s fifth goal of the season. Standing in front of the net, Stewart stuffed home a feed from Nathan Smith that came from below the goal line.

Sertich would strike again, this time with 25 seconds left, to cut the deficit to one. After Dupuis’ shot deflected to the left of Turple, Sertich found the puck at his feet and swatted if past the Wolves goalie. Willsie would pick up the second assist on the goal, his third point of the night.

Scrambling to get control of the puck with only 25 seconds left in the game, the Monsters would never be able to corral the puck and put a shot on the Wolves net, falling only by a goal to the defending AHL champs. By game’s end, Bacashihua made 17 saves on 22 shots while Turple turned aside 22 of 26 shots.

“I thought we played very well, but we obviously played just good enough to lose,” said head coach Joe Sacco. “Chicago is a very tough team. They are the defending Calder Cup champs, and they showed it out there tonight.”

The Monsters return to The Q on Saturday afternoon to host the Manchester Monarchs for the first meeting in franchise history between the two teams at 1:00 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on FOX Sports Ohio.

Sights and Sounds
 
Marty Sertich Interview
 
Coach Joe Sacco Interview
Quote, Unquote

“Overall we had a very good practice yesterday, we did a great job tonight on not giving up penalties, Coach stressed that big time. We still need to work on some things but we feel we are getting back on track.” - right wing Brian Willsie

 


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