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The Lake Erie Monsters could not find a way to overcome an early first period deficit against the Grand Rapids Griffins falling short, 4-1, Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Griffins came out of the blocks quickly as center Mark Hartigan took a pass from left wing Josef Fojtik and right wing Darren McCarty for the first tally of the game at the 4:08 marker of the first. Hartigan’s 22nd goal of the season increased his team-leading total.
A short-handed marker came only minutes later for the Griffins as a Lake Erie turnover in the neutral zone was cashed in by right wing Carl Corazzini. Center Mark Cullen dished the puck to Corazzini for the assist at the 6:12 mark of the first.
“We came out pretty flat. We’ve had better starts than that this year. Coach let us know in the first intermission that we have to execute better than that. We have to respond and be mentally ready for Saturday,” said Monsters defenseman Mike Vernace.
The Monsters came out in the second period with more intensity as center Jamie Lundmark let loose a delayed slapper that was buried in the back of the net. The goal marks his seventh of the season. Vernace and Johnny Boychuk were each credited with an assist at 3:34 of second set. Vernace’s helper gives him the team lead in assists on the season with 18.
Cullen answered the Monsters tally with a marker of his own at the 17:15 mark of the second period. He took a shot from a sharp angle at the bottom of the left circle that was deflected off a defenseman’s skate on the power play. Darren Helm and Jakub Kindl were given the helpers.
Cullen added to his previous two points on the night by notching another power play marker on a cross-slot pass from right to left at the 5:16 mark of the third. Garrett Stafford and Corazzini were credited with the assists.
“Our penalty kill has struggled all year long and we are trying to improve. It seems like every time those guys were shooting the puck, it was going in the back of the net. We work on it everyday, it’s just a matter of killing one or two games in a row and then getting on a little bit of a roll,” said Monsters head coach Joe Sacco.
The Monsters could not muster another tally as the game concluded 4-1 in favor of Grand Rapids.
Monsters goalie Mike Wall stopped 28 of the 32 shots that he faced. Opposing goaltender Jimmy Howard turned away 29 of 30 shots.
The Monsters return to action Saturday night against these very same Griffins at 7:30 p.m. as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders come to The Q.
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