Monsters, Heat Battle for Top Spot

Two of the hottest teams in the American Hockey League will meet at Quicken Loans Arena tonight at 7:00 PM and Friday at 7:30 PM, as the Lake Erie Monsters (23-16-2-2) host the Abbotsford Heat (22-13-3-4) in back-to-back games that could potentially have the top spot in the North Division on the line. The Monsters come off a 2-1 shootout loss at home to Hamilton on Saturday, but the team is 4-0-0-1 over its last five games and 11-3-0-1 over its last 15 contests. Abbotsford lost 5-4 in Charlotte on Saturday, but prior to the setback, the Heat was riding a five-game win streak. The Monsters and Heat have met four times this season; twice in Cleveland, and twice in Abbotsford. The Monsters lone win in the four meetings was a 4-3 shootout win at The Q on October 27, while the last two meetings between the two clubs- November 13 and 14 in Abbotsford, BC- resulted in shutout wins for the Heat, who have taken three of the four meetings this season overall.

Bill Thomas extended his point streak to five games, but the Monsters were unable to follow suit with their winning streak, which was halted at four with a 2-1 shootout loss to Hamilton at The Q. The shootout loss, however, gives the Monsters a five-game unbeaten-in-regulation streak, which is a new season-best for the team. Sami Aittokallio stopped 33 of 34 shots in the loss for the Monsters, giving the Finnish rookie netminder a 2-0-1 mark and 79 saves on 84 shots over his last three starts.

Thomas continues to have the scoring touch for the Monsters, and with Mike Sgarbossa’s call-up to Colorado earlier in the week, he’ll be counted on even more offensively. With his power play goal Saturday, Thomas has three goals and eight points on his five-game point streak entering the two-game set against the Heat. Thomas has 12 points over his last eight games, 14 points over his last 11 games, and the Monsters are 14-4-0-0 when he gets a point.

Dustin Sylvester has two goals and four points over his last two games for the Heat, and the former Monster- Sylvester played three games and was a minus-three in 2009-10- has been tough on his former club over the last two seasons. Since the start of last season, Sylvester has four goals in eight games against the Monsters, including one this season.

Catch Thursday’s game at 7:00 PM and Friday’s game at 7:30 PM live on ESPN 850 WKNR with Doug Plagens on the play-by-play.

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