Road Trip Ends in Hamilton Tonight

After splitting the season’s first two meetings, the Lake Erie Monsters (11-13-1-1) and Hamilton Bulldogs (10-13-1-1) meet for a third time tonight at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. For the Monsters, it’s a game that offers a chance to vault up to a tie with the Rochester Americans, who hold the second spot in the North Division with 26 points. For Hamilton, though, the game brings an opportunity to launch up to a tie with the Monsters should the Bulldogs be able to earn a win in regulation. With Grand Rapids in action tonight, this could be an eventful Wednesday as far as positioning in the North Division is concerned.

Another key point of interest: while the current season-long six-game road stretch (which finishes tonight) has been a test of endurance for the Monsters, the next seven games- including tonight- are just simply important. Tonight the Monsters begin a series of seven consecutive games against North Division foes, and entering today, second place and fifth place in the five-team division are separated by just four points.

The Monsters are coming off consecutive defeats in Abbotsford, and now sit at 2-3-0-0 on the current six-game road swing. The club is trying to avoid its first three-game losing skid since November 2-5, and will be doing so against a Bulldogs team that has won four of five games on the heels of a five-game losing streak that closed November and began December. The stories are similar for the two clubs, and ring true for almost every American Hockey League team at some point during a season: injuries and call-ups, at different times, caused for some rough patches.

Hugh Jessiman continued his hot play in Abbotsford, scoring the only goal of the weekend. His 10th of the season - which made him the first Monster this season to reach the double-digit goal plateau - was also his ninth goal in his last 14 games. Jessiman has really taken his scoring prowess to new heights since the conclusion of October. He registered just a goal in his first eight games, and since serving a four game suspension, has been scoring at a much more frequent rate.

One of the players contributing an assist on Jessiman’s goal in Abbotsford over the weekend was Eric Lampe, who signed to a professional tryout contract prior to Saturday’s game. Lampe, the ECHL’s goal-scoring leader at the time of his promotion, had registered 20 goals in 24 games for the Las Vegas Wranglers, and in the absence of Brad Malone -who is up with the parent Colorado Avalanche - Lampe should see time and opportunities to produce.

Aaron Palushaj is a Bulldogs forward to keep an eye on. Aside from having played 15 games for Hamilton’s parent club, the Montreal Canadiens, this season, he has scored one of the two goals the Bulldogs have against the Monsters on the campaign. The Michigan native and former Michigan Wolverine scored the lone goal in Hamilton’s 1-0 victory over the Monsters on November 5th.

And here’s an interesting statistic: the Monsters are 5-5-1-1 in games decided by just a single goal. Nearly half of the team’s games have been decided by only one goal, with another five being two-goal games. That makes 17 games for the Monsters this season - out of 26 - that have been decided by one or two goals. One of those games was the first meeting this season between the Monsters and Hamilton.

All the action tonight can be heard live on AM 1220 WHKW. The puck drops at 7:30 PM, and pregame coverage begins around 7:25 PM. The Monsters return home to take on the Grand Rapids Griffins Friday and Saturday night, with the puck dropping each night at 7:30 PM.

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