What's On Tap...Heading East

Labatt Blue
What's on Tap
For the first time this season, the Lake Erie Monsters will be taking on a non-Western Conference foe when they travel to Syracuse to play the Crunch on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Last season, the Monsters were 5-3-0-0 against Syracuse but only have two games against the Crunch this year. The second and final meeting between the teams in the 2009-10 regular season is slated for February 26th, when the Crunch come to Cleveland for a 7:30 p.m. game.

With the addition of the Abbotsford Heat and Texas Stars and the subtraction of the Iowa Chops to the American Hockey League in 2009-10, the Crunch moved out of the Western Conference’s North Division and are a part of the East Division in the Eastern Conference.

On Friday, for the first time in their professional careers, brothers Tom and Dan Fritsche, born and raised in Parma, Ohio, will face each other, with Tom playing for the visiting Monsters and Dan suiting up for Syracuse. Tom was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and starred at Ohio State while brother Dan was drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft after playing with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. Although it’s anyone’s guess as to which team the Fritsche parents will be cheering for, it suffices to say that it will be a special night for the Fritsche family when the Crunch and Monsters square off Friday in Syracuse.

On a tougher note, in playing the Crunch, Lake Erie takes on the AHL’s fourth-most penalized team. Averaging 21.8 penalty minutes per game, Syracuse is no stranger to the penalty box, and that is especially evident for Crunch forward Jon Mirasty. Mirasty is fourth in the AHL with 20 major penalties and fifth overall with 174 penalty minutes.

Although the Syracuse coaching staff can’t be too pleased with so much time in the box, some good has come out of the numerous trips to the sin bin. Crunch center Derek MacKenzie is tied for the league lead with five shorthanded points and the team has netted 10 shorthanded scores this season, a number that is the third-most in the AHL.

But the trips to the penalty box also haven’t helped the team’s defensive statistics. Yielding 3.5 goals per game, the Crunch have the AHL’s 27th ranked defense, a stat the Monsters hope to capitalize on.

After Friday’s contest, the Monsters travel south of Syracuse and cross the state border for their only game this season in the state of Pennsylvania to take on the defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears Saturday night. The team returns home to take on the Bears on Wednesday, February 24th, for a 10:45 a.m. start after wrapping up their weekend in Chocolate town.

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