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Hello again hockey fans and welcome to another installment of “View From the Booth”. What a month of January the Monsters just enjoyed! Before I go any further, a tip of the cap to our players, our coaches, all of our team staff and everyone who works in our organization and our great fans! Way to go for a job well done to everyone! Hopefully February will continue to bring the same kind of success and enjoyment.
Our team was awesome in January, winning 10 of 16 games and climbing from the depths of the North Division to third place. Lake Erie is currently just three points back of Manitoba and four points back of Hamilton. The Monsters beat Hamilton twice in three days this past week, and are 4-2 against the Bulldogs so far this season.
How is this for defense and controlling the team currently atop our division: In three games vs. Hamilton at The Q, the Monsters have outscored the Bulldogs 12-1. That’s very, very impressive. On November 10th the Monsters won 5-1, then on New Year’s Day they won 3-0 and this past Saturday they won 4-1, in what could have very easily been a shutout. The bottom line, David Quinn’s team is playing without a doubt their best hockey of the season, and some of the best in the four years of our franchise.
It’s been a total team effort during this climb up the standings. Like you often hear in the hockey world, it all starts from the net out and that’s exactly what has been the case with our team. John Grahame has been outstanding in goal. He went 10-3-0 in January and will be a very strong candidate to be named the AHL player of the month for January. Grahame has just been steady, solid, consistent and he’s made big saves at big times. He’s a calming presence in the net for the Monsters, which is such a critical element, especially with a young team.
Our team is a lot younger this season on the back end than it was last season year, and Grahame has definitely worked to help those younger defensemen, making them feel comfortable and confident in their roles. Cameron Gaunce is one of those young defenseman, Joel Chouinard is another and both young men have been impressive in their first full pro seasons. Kevin Montgomery, although he’s been here for parts of three seasons, is still a young player. Monty is only 22 and still developing. Jonas Holos is a young guy who has big time potential. Julien Brouillette is another younger defenseman, who to me is a very talented all-around defenseman. Travis Gawryletz and Ray Macias are also guys still in their mid 20’s who have supplied us with some solid moments throughout the season. During our games I always enjoy how well Grahame communicates with the defensive corp, whether it’s pointing out where the puck is going, or when he’s actively playing the puck to one of our defenseman with his goal stick.
Thumbs up to defenseman Joel Chouinard, and team trainer and strength coach Brent Woodside for their hard work to get Joel back on the ice. He was injured in early November after he was just getting into a groove on the ice, but after roughly two months of being unable to play, he has worked extremely hard to get back on the ice with our team. He returned on January 23rd against Peoria and has played in four games since coming back from the injury. He’s a smart young player at both ends of the ice and he is someone I believe can be a big power play weapon for our team during the remainder of the season.
How about rookie Mark Olver? Is this young man a player or what? And it’s not just the fact that he is leading our team with 20 goals at the all-star break, and he represented the Monsters at the AHL All-Star game, it’s all of the other things he does aside from the goal scoring that I am so impressed with. In the game at The Q last Wednesday he had close to 10 hits, and I’m not just saying he bumped a guy in the corner or along the wall on the forecheck, I am talking big time hits. Olver is by no means the biggest player on the Monsters, but he might very well be the player on our team who can bring the heat with hits better than anyone. He’s 5-11 and 170 pounds, but he’s developing into a complete, all-around player right before our eyes. He had a five-game goal scoring streak during the Monsters five-game win streak in mid-January. He scored four game-winning goals in January as well. It should be interesting when the AHL Player of the Month for January is unveiled. If you ask me, it will either be John Grahame or Mark Olver, either one of our guys deserves it!
On Wednesday and Saturday nights I was very impressed with our top line of Captain Ben Walter, Greg Mauldin and Julian Talbot. Wednesday they were all over the ice chipping in on the goals and in the defensive zone in the 4-2 win over Toronto. They came back Thursday in Hamilton with another strong effort and then on Saturday they were dazzling again. It was great to see Walter get rewarded for the way he worked in the 4-1 win over Hamilton with a “trick shot” goal in the third period against Hamilton goaltender Curtis Sanford. Walter was on the goal line to the left of Sanford and just decided to shoot the puck at Sanford. It hit the right side of Sanford’s body, I believe it hit his blocker and then his pads and went in the net to in essence seal the deal in the win. The entire line has it rolling, and it’s such a great mix. You have Walter who is patient and puck savvy, Mauldin’s NHL like speed and finishing ability and Talbot’s skating and ability to play well at both ends of the ice. It’s a great combo and a line that brings me out of my seat!
Justin Mercier has been playing some great hockey the past few weeks as well. Mercier and Mike Carman to me, have formed one of the absolute best penalty killing duos in the AHL. There is a feature we ran on one our television broadcasts on them, that is now on our website about the dynamic duo as well. As for Mercier, you can see a difference in his game. He’s stepped up his physical play, he’s been getting more chances by going to the net more often and he’s seeing more and more opportunity on the Monsters power play units as well. It’s all because of his work ethic and the way he’s played lately.
Those are a few items that have caught my eye in the last week in my “View From the Booth”, which by the way is the best radio/television booth in the AHL. All in all, our team is right in the thick of the North Division playoff race and if things continue the way they were in January, many more good things are going to happen for our team and our great fans.
Remember you can email me questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will answer them on air on our radio broadcasts. I will be doing that on Friday night when San Antonio comes to town. A 7:25 p.m. start time with head coach David Quinn in the pregame show this Friday on ESPN 850 WKNR. Saturday’s game at 1:00 p.m. at The Q is a television/radio simulcast on MY43 WUAB and ESPN 850 WKNR. Sunday’s game against Abbotsford is radio only on AM 1220. It should be a fun weekend at The Q. I hope you can listen, watch or come to The Q for a big three-in-three weekend with the Monsters.
Remember to also tune into ESPN 850 WKNR every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7:10 a.m. for our Monsters morning updates. I know coach Quinn is on ESPN 850 WKNR at least once a week with our buddy Kenny Roda as well. Every Saturday night I am on AM 1420’s Sports Fix for 15-20 minutes, usually at 11:00 p.m. I would love to hear from some of our fans, so call in if you would like and we can talk Monsters hockey.
Thanks for your support of our team, we all appreciate it! Until next week, keep cheering our guys on and continue to check in on our website for features, videos and audio clips from our games as well.
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