Monsters Fall to Moose in Season Finale

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In front of a franchise record 17,627 fans at Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night, the Lake Erie Monsters dropped a 4-1 contest to the Western Conference champion Manitoba Moose in their season finale. The crowd total was an AHL 2008-09 season high and is 11th overall in the history of the AHL in regular season attendance.

The first period would go by scoreless, thanks in large part to Monsters goalie Tyler Weiman, who turned away all 11 of Manitoba’s shots on net. His counterpart, Moose netminder Curtis Sanford, stopped all six shots from Lake Erie.

Defenseman Taylor Ellington would open up the scoring, notching a goal in his first professional game. From the point, Ellington’s seeing-eye slapshot found its way through a slew of bodies in front of the net at the 3:10 mark of the second period. Mark Cullen and Maxime Fortunus recorded the assists on the goal.

Then, just four minutes later, Nolan Baumgartner put the Moose up a pair with his 11th of the year. Coming in from his spot at the point, Baumgartner sent a slapshot blistering past the blocker of Weiman into the top of the net, putting the Moose on top, 2-0. Jason Krog and Shaun Heshka picked up the assists on the power play tally.

Before the second frame would end, the Moose would score again, as Michael Grabner put up his 29th of the season at the 15:05 mark. Coming in on a two-on-one break, Guillaume Desbiens finessed a puck toward the front of the net. In stride, Grabner swatted the puck in the direction of the Monsters cage, pushing it past the glove of Weiman.

Heading into the third period down by three, the Monsters cut the Manitoba lead to two on Mark McCutcheon’s sixth goal of the season. Taking a cross-ice feed from Ryan Wilson, captain Chris Durno stick handled around a sprawled out Sanford. On his backhand, Durno fed McCutcheon in front. Battling through a defender, McCutcheon pushed forward, sliding the puck into an open net at the 8:24 mark of the third.

Despite the Monsters valiant comeback attempt, the Moose would add an insurance marker into an empty net with a minute and a half remaining in the game, as Grabner put Manitoba up, 4-1, netting his 30th of the season. “We had a good third period,” said head coach Joe Sacco. “We showed a little resiliency, but it was too little, too late.”

When asked if the large crowd had any part of the team’s success, Sacco was unwavering in his support for hockey in the city of Cleveland.

“Cleveland can certainly be a good hockey town,” said Sacco. “The support on a night like tonight shows Cleveland can’t be just a hockey town, but one of the best hockey towns in the American Hockey League.”

The Monsters finish the year with a 34-38-3-5 record, posting eight more wins and 11 more points than they did in their inaugural 2007-08 season.

Reflecting on the season that was, team captain Durno had nothing but strong words of praise for the consistent effort he received from his club.

“There aren’t many teams in this league that work as hard night in and night out as we did,” he said. “The coaching staff is proud of that, I’m proud of that, and all the guys in the room take pride in that.”


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