Monsters Season Rewind

With over half a season in the books and the symbolic halfway point known as the All-Star break now behind the Lake Erie Monsters (21-22-2-2), the club will try to begin the new segment of the season on a different note than the first one began. However, the 0-5-1-0 streak that began the season was one of several streaks, good and not-so-good, that the Monsters endured in the first 45 games. Consistency, mainly in the goal scoring category, has to be the key point of emphasis as the Monsters head toward an important stretch run.

The season began with the forgettable streak of 0-5-1-0, but that stretch was nullified by the Monsters 5-0-0-1 run from November 10 to November 26. The Monsters also won three straight from December 28 to December 31; but lost four straight immediately thereafter. A main reason for the inconsistency was injuries, which have plagued the Monsters at every point this season. On opening night, the Monsters were without five players who have been key contributors this season, as well as Joey Hishon, a former first round draft choice of the Avalanche who remains on the Monsters roster, but has yet to see game action.

Goalie Cedrick Desjardins, and forwards Greg Mauldin, Mark Olver, Patrick Rissmiller, to name a few, are impact players who missed time due to injuries. Desjardins, in just 14 games played, put together a body of work strong enough to be named the starter for the Western Conference All-Stars. All four aforementioned players are difference makers, and each has lost significant time this season. At no point this season have the Monsters had Desjardins, Mauldin, Olver, and Rissmiller dressed in uniform at the same time. With the lineup falling into place more than any other point this season, the Monsters shouldn’t be held off the scoreboard as frequently as they were before the break. The Monsters were shutout eight times over the season’s first half. In the five regulation losses suffered by Desjardins, the Monsters supported him with just two goals.

The first half certainly included its share of notable moments; the high point, most certainly, was the Monsters last-minute comeback win in Hershey on November 26. Trailing 3-1 after the opening period, the Monsters took a 4-3 lead in the third period before the Bears tied the game at 4. Rookie forward Brad Malone had the answer for the Monsters, poking in the game-winning goal with 20 seconds left in regulation. The contest was a true thriller, and certainly showed what this Monsters team is capable of accomplishing.

Other points of interest from the first half: Evan Brophey tied a Monsters franchise record for assists in a game with four against San Antonio on November 11. Brophey and Hugh Jessiman both scored hat tricks in separate games during the season’s first half. The team also set a new franchise mark: The Monsters generated just 11 shots on net, a franchise low and season low in the AHL, on December 29. Despite the lack of shots, the Monsters still managed a 2-1 victory over the North Division leaders.

Furthermore, Monsters fans have again had a chance to see NHL talent on the rise. David van der Gulik, the Monsters leading scorer through his first 21 games played this season, has become a regular in Colorado’s lineup. Stefan Elliott, a rookie defenseman who played in the Monsters first 18 games, has played most of the season with the parent club; using him in different situations. Forwards Evan Brophey and Brad Malone have also been summoned to the highest level of professional hockey this season, while remaining key contributors to the Monsters.

Speaking of fan, at a January 21 game against Oklahoma City Barons, 17,109 fans packed the Q Arena to cheer on the Monsters. It marked the third largest attendance in franchise history, as well as the largest crowd for an indoor AHL game this season. The Monsters are currently second in the league in average attendance on the season.

Overall, a healthier Monsters lineup should yield more consistency, and the consistency will bring about an increase in scoring. The Monsters remain a team whose best hockey is ahead; something the club will look to use to its advantage in a playoff push.

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