Closer Look: 2012-13 Lake Erie Monsters

2012-13 Monsters

When the 2012-13 edition of the Lake Erie Monsters broke camp, the group included arguably the best assembly of talent in the team’s history. Veterans with NHL experience such as the familiar and hard-working David van der Gulik, Bill Thomas, Bryan Lerg, and Thomas Pock blended with youthful forwards Brad Malone and Mike Sgarbossa, while Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott headlined a group of defenseman that helped the Monsters gain a reputation as a speedy team that moved the puck up the ice in a hurry. Rookie forward Andrew Agozzino began a season that saw him lead the team in scoring by registering the game-winning goal on opening night, and the Monsters tandem of rookie goalies each picked up wins over the season’s opening weekend.

Through 13 games, the Monsters were 9-4-0-0, and won their first four shootouts of the season. Team captain Bryan Lerg, in his first season as a Monster, led the way by scoring in each of his first four shootout attempts of the season. The Monsters stayed on a winning track with back-to-back .500 months in November and December. In December, van der Gulik scored goals in five consecutive games between the 15th and 26th of the month for the Monsters longest goal scoring streak of the season. van der Gulik’s ability to put the puck in the net during the back half of December helped the Monsters bolt into the 2013 calendar year as one of the league’s hottest teams.

2012-13 Monsters

Overall, the Monsters posted an 8-2-0-1 record in January and ended the month in first place in the North Division after Calvin Pickard stopped 23 of 24 shots and Malone netted the game-winning goal in a 4-1 win over the Abbotsford Heat. In January, Agozzino and Sgarbossa’s solid rookie campaigns reached a new height when each was selected to the AHL’s All-Star Game in Providence. Agozzino was the first Monster in team history to go to the game as a starter.

A combination of call-ups and injuries proved to be a huge obstacle for the Monsters over the months of February and March, but with some of the first half’s key contributors out of the Monsters lineup, new opportunities and greater responsibilities arose for others. Paul Carey, a rookie forward coming off a four-year career and a pair of national titles at Boston College, reached a Monsters season-best eight-game point streak between February 13 and February 26. In fact, after January 1, Carey tied with Thomas for the Monsters points lead with 28 points, one ahead of Agozzino’s 27. Karl Stollery finished the season with 16 points from the blue line in 32 games after February 1, putting a strong end to his first professional season.

Perhaps the biggest question mark surrounding the Monsters out of training camp had to do with the duo of 20-year old rookie netminders the team carried: Calvin Pickard and Sami Aittokallio. Pickard finished the campaign with 20 victories and had a 2.13 goals against average after the calendar flipped to 2013, solidifying himself as one of the league’s best young goalies. Pickard ended the season with a shutout of Grand Rapids, his fifth shutout of the season, and received multiple opportunities to backup at the NHL level. Aittokallio made his NHL debut for the Colorado Avalanche on April 11 in Los Angeles.

10 players saw time with both the Monsters and Avalanche in 2012-13: Sami Aittokallio, Tyson Barrie, Patrick Bordeleau, Stefan Elliott, Brad Malone, Mark Olver, Calvin Pickard, Mike Sgarbossa, David van der Gulik, and Tomas Vincour. For Aittokallio, Bordeleau, and Sgarbossa, their first games with the Avalanche this season also marked their NHL debuts. Vincour, who had previous NHL experience with the Dallas Stars, made his Avalanche debut late in the season.

The Monsters finished the season just as they began it: as one of the league’s hottest teams. Despite falling short of a playoff spot, the Monsters won six of their final seven contests and secured a third consecutive winning season.

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