Monsters Finish Road Trip in Peoria

Tonight the Lake Erie Monsters (22-22-2-2) have their final head-to-head meeting with the Peoria Rivermen (24-20-2-1). The Peoria currently possesses what the Monsters, and several other clubs, are chasing: the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Monsters enter the game with a four-game unbeaten-in-regulation streak, and Peoria is the winner of back-to-back games and six of their last 10 contests.

Wednesday, the Monsters held off a late third period charge from the Rockford IceHogs en route to a 4-3 victory; their second in as many tries against Rockford this season. Four different Monsters scored on Wednesday including Brad Malone, who netted the eventual game-winner and picked up an assist as well. When Malone has a multi-point game this season, the Monsters are 5-1-0-0. Evan Brophey extended his point streak to four games on Wednesday against a Rockford team for which he has played 299 regular season games in his career; he has two goals and six points over his last six games. Justin Mercier is also providing a strong offensive punch for the Monsters. He has three goals over his last two games, and five points in as many games. Gerald Coleman’s importance over the last few games is indicated by the numbers. His 41 saves a week ago tonight set a Monsters season-high, and his 40 saves on Wednesday tie what is now the second-highest single-game save total for a Monsters goalie this season.

The key for the Monsters against the high-scoring Peoria Rivermen will be discipline, not only in the form of staying out of the penalty box, in terms of not giving the shifty Peoria forwards any extra time or space on the ice. Former Monster T.J. Hensick opened the scoring on the power play in the last meeting between the two clubs, a 4-0 Peoria win on January 12th, and has five points in three games between the teams this season. Peoria’s power play ranks third in the American Hockey League and with forwards like Hensick, former 55-goal scorer Brett Sterling, Derek Nesbitt, Phil McRae and Adam Cracknell, it’s no surprise that the Rivermen are strong with the man-advantage.

With Hensick and Sterling pairing up on the top line for Peoria, the Monsters need to make sure they don’t allow them any extra time to make plays. Hensick is third in the AHL entering tonight with 40 assists, and Sterling has scored four goals in three games against the Monsters this season.

The Monsters have a chance to close-out their four-game road swing without a regulation loss. If they’re able to generate a point tonight,  it will be the Monsters longest point streak of the season. Their current streak is at six games (11/10-11/26).

Tonight’s game between the Monsters and Rivermen can be heard live from Carver Arena in Peoria beginning at 8:05 PM Eastern on ESPN 850 WKNR. The Monsters return to Quicken Loans Arena for a game Sunday afternoon at 3:00 PM against an Eastern Conference opponent, the Syracuse Crunch.

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