Monsters Cool Off Heat

In front of 13,000 fans on Saturday night, the Lake Erie Monsters won a thrilling 3-2 contest against the North Division’s third-place team, the Abbotsford Heat, at Quicken Loans Arena. With the win, the Monsters improve to 31-32-0-7 and move within three points of the Manitoba Moose for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North with 10 games left in the regular season. Abbotsford drops to 34-26-4-6 with the loss.

T.J. Hensick started the scoring early for the Monsters, netting his 19th of the season less than two minutes into the opening frame on the power play. Coming down the middle of the ice, Hensick took a pass at the blue line from Ryan Stoa, walked in the high slot, and rifled a wrist shot past the low blocker of Abbotsford goalie David Shantz. Tom Preissing picked up the second assist on the goal.

It would take another 13 minutes, but captain Brian Willsie would pad the Lake Erie lead with his 21st of the season at the 14:24 mark of the first. Standing in the low slot, Willsie took a pass from Hensick that came from behind the net and one-timed the disc past the low glove of Shantz. Kevin Montgomery picked up the second assist on the goal. After the second tally, Leland Irving came in to replace Shantz between the pipes for Abbotsford.

Heading into the middle frame with a two-goal lead, the Monsters would keep the Heat off the board for 13 more minutes, but Abbotsford would eventually strike, cutting the Lake Erie lead in half on Olivier Latendresse’s fourth of the season at the 13:20 mark of the second. Standing in front of Monsters goalie John Grahame, Latendresse collected a rebound in front of the cage, banging home the loose change through Grahame’s fivehole. Brett Sutter and Brad Cole picked up assists on the goal.

Just two minutes after getting on the board, Abbotsford tied the game with Radek Smolenak’s ninth goal of the year. Standing on top of Grahame, Smolenak redirected a point shot from the stick of Josh Meyers that trickled through Grahame’s crease and into the net, tying the game with less than five minutes left in the second.

Despite two quick goals, the Monsters would not let the sudden momentum change deter them, and the team would record the final strike in the second period on one of the prettier Monsters goals in recent memory.

Taking a pass from Stoa into the Heat zone, Hensick outraced a Heat defenseman, putting himself on a partial breakaway. When the Abbotsford defender dove at Hensick, the crafty forward put a backhand pass around the defenseman and right on Willsie’s stick. Taking the pass in the slot, Willsie flicked a wrist shot that found the top corner of the net past Irving’s glove, giving the Monsters a 3-2 lead heading into the third.

With 20 minutes to go and a one-goal lead, the Monsters defense buckled down, and Grahame stopped all 12 shots in the third to push the Monsters past their division rivals by the 3-2 final. On the night, Grahame turned away 35 of 37 shots while Shantz stopped four of six shots and Irving made 16 saves on 17 shots.

“It was a great game, a very good effort and I’m just happy to get the win,” said Monsters head coach David Quinn. “We won the game tonight because we had T.J. Hensick and they didn’t. He was unbelievable all night, and he was a threat every time he was on the ice. That’s the guy that won the hockey game.”

With a goal and two assists, Hensick tallied his team-leading 20th multi-point game of the season, while pushing his point streak to four games. In that span, the former University of Michigan standout has posted eight points (1G, 7A). Picking up a pair of helpers, Stoa has recorded points in five consecutive games, tallying seven points (3G, 4A) in that span, while picking up his eighth multi-point game of the season. With the pair of tallies, Willsie recorded his 14th game with multiple points and has put up four points (2G, 2A) in the past three games.

The Monsters return to the ice on Wednesday, when they host the Rochester Americans at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available and can be purchased by calling (216) 420-0000, by visiting or by visiting any Northern Ohio Discount Drug Mart.

Sights and Sounds
Head Coach David Quinn Interview
Brian Willsie Postgame Interview

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