Hot off a weekend sweep of the San Antonio Rampage, the Monsters head West for one last weekend against the Oklahoma City Barons, owners of the best record in the AHL. As we saw last year at this time, LEM are without some key players from injuries and callups so it's definitely going to be a tough weekend.
- As expected, the AHL announced Thursday plans for a Pacific Division beginning play next season. MHH's own Cole D. Hamilton covered the presser for one and all. Calgary will move the Flames from Adirondack to Stockton. Edmonton will move the Barons from OKC to Bakersfield, San Jose will move the Sharks from Worcester to San Jose, LA will move the Monarchs from Manchester to Ontario and the Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals and move them to San Diego.
There are all sorts of rumors around about the shape of the other divisions and a reduction in schedule for all or part of the league but that will apparently be determined by the AHL Board of Governors at a later date. I'm a little concerned that the 5 NHL clubs forced this through and will basically be sequestered in California, mainly playing each other in a reduced schedule with a couple trips/visits by the midwest teams. How do you determine playoff eligibility there?
The Avalanche were also rumored to have some comments forthcoming perhaps about their AHL plans sometime this week. The ECHL also has some restructuring coming from the California teams situation, they are expected to announce that Norfolk gains the Bakersfield Condors franchise sometime Friday.
What does this mean for Monsters fans? Nothing yet. Cleveland is a market the AHL wants to be in and LEM have stable local ownership. Nobody can ever nail down exactly when the affiliation agreement with the Avs expires but it's believed to run through at least next season so I don't see any of the ugliness that occurred between Norfolk and Anaheim in the cards.Tim Warsinskey had a good look at the situation in the Plain Dealer this week.
- Following his 2-week conditioning assignment, Reto Berra rejoined the Avalanche last Sunday after a 3-1-1 stint with a .914 Sv% and 2.57 GAA (and one goal!). It feels odd writing this but I think he'll be missed to some extent. Luckily Calvin Pickard is back for the foreseeable future.
- Dennis Everberg scored a couple of goals in his NHL All-Star Break with LEM but he too is back with Colorado.
- Stefan Elliott represented the Monsters at the AHL All-Star Game on Monday night and from what little I watched seemed to be paired up with Stars D-man Max Fortunus. The Avs have noticed Stef's good play this season and given him a callup with Erik Johnson out for a while. Not sure when we can expect him back.
- The Monsters called up Joey Leach from the Fort Wayne Komets this week. Leach has been called up before but hasn't dressed. They also signed Komets defenseman James Martin to a PTO. Martin has 30 points in 40 games for the K's and was named captain of the ECHL All-Star Team last week. Never seen either guy play but I have a feeling I will this weekend.
- Lake Erie have been incredibly healthy this year, especially on defense but the callups hint that that is changing. Duncan Siemens has a wrist injury and missed both games against the Ramps last weekend. Leading scorer Max Noreau was out Saturday night with UBI, hopefully it's nothing major but...
- I've been meaning to post this tweet, LEM's specialty jerseys for this year. I think the Make-a-Wish and Autism Awareness kits look pretty sharp.
courtesy @monstershockey twitter
Week 16 Wrap-up
For Friday night's game the Monsters added Dennis Everberg and Tomas Vincour to the lineup and the extra skill and experience paid off big time in the 3rd period. 4 goals, including 2 in 5 seconds and 3 in 3:10 blew the game wide open and gave LEM a 6-2 victory to kick off the second half of the season. Hishon, Ryan, Noreau, Everberg, Sgarbossa and Agozzino all scored in the win.
Saturday night brought a pretty impressive win for the Monsters. Missing two of their starting defensemen, including their leading scorer, and getting flat out dominated for most of the game, they somehow managed to keep the Ramps off the scoreboard until late and got a fantastic goal from Andrew Agozzino in overtime to lock up the 2 points. Reto Berra was excellent in net, saving 37 of 39 and giving the team a chance to win. Elliott, Everberg and Agozzino had goals for LEM.
The Monsters dropped a pair of games against the Barons at the beginning of the month, 3-2 & 5-2.
The big question here is who is going to be playing defense for LEM with Elliott in Colorado and Duncan/Max ailing, the answers aren't pretty. I'm expecting something like...
Stollery - Beaupre
Lauridsen - Corbett
Martin/Leach - Gervais
...which could be dangerous. Martin has 35 games of AHL experience with the Abbotsford Heat and Leach played 7 games for the Barons over the last 2 seasons. Picks will need to be on it and the forwards are going to have to viciously attack the neutral zone all night to keep the Barons in check. It can be done, but it's a lot to ask of a young team.
Forward lines from Saturday's game:
With Evs back in Colorado we'll see one of Cheek, Heard or Maggio (plz no) back in the lineup assuming no new injuries.
Friday night at OKC 8:00pm in the ET, radio on 850 WKNR
Saturday night at OKC 8:00pm in the ET radio on 1420 WHK
Tuesday night at Milwaukee then a weekend at home vs the Marlies and Bulldogs
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Tonight's game closely parallels the Avs/Perds game but Saturday night drop by for some exciting Monsters hockey. I'll have updates and recaps here and on twitter as usual. Enjoy!