Monsters Midyear Review

The first half of the 2009-10 season has been interesting to say the least. The Lake Erie Monsters have been exposed to peaks and valleys of pro sports unlike any other AHL team up to this point. From exciting wins in front of record-setting crowds to embarrassing streaks and upsetting games, the Monsters have been through it all. All the while, the team has been making a difference in the community away from the ice. Taking a look back over the past four months we see what the Monsters have done and where they are heading.

Nothing is quite as encouraging as winning the first contest of a new season. The Lake Erie Monsters did just that, and in style, by taking a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory against the Rochester Americans in the season-opening game October 3rd. Phil Dupuis set off the fireworks for the Monsters, scoring with just six seconds left in the overtime frame of the season opener. This was a great way to kick off David Quinn’s first year as the Monsters head coach and from there hopes ran high for the Monsters after such a dramatic road win.

But after the season opener, the month of October proved to be a rollercoaster ride for the team. The Monsters lost four straight, three of which were on home ice at The Q, and received their first shutout loss of the 2009-10 season in their home opener on October 10th against Rockford. However, the team rallied back to win five out of six to end the year’s tenth month with a mark of 6-5-0-0.

Off the ice, the team gave back to the community in a variety of ways. The Monsters partnered with KFC to take part in the KFC World Hunger Relief Campaign by serving free meals to those in need on October 14th at the KFC on Carnegie Ave. in Cleveland. The Monsters were also recognized in Cleveland Scene Magazine as “Best Fan-Friendly Team” in the Scene’s Best of Cleveland 2009 issue.

In November, the Monsters play cooled off with the temperatures. With 11 games taking place during the month, the team was able to escape with only one victory.

While the Monsters fortunes weren’t favorable on the ice, the team succeeded off the ice in helping the less fortunate. The organization teamed up with Majestic Steel USA to present the 2009 Monsters “Shut Out Hunger” program. Fans were encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to six games throughout the month of November. Several players also took the time to assist in handing out turkeys, stuffing, cranberries and bread to 200 underprivileged families at St. Martin de Porres Family Center in Cleveland for the Thanksgiving holiday.

The beginning of December looked as though the losses would continue to pile up, as the team got off to a 1-3-0-1 mark to start the final month of 2009. The Monsters then got in the spirit of the holidays and began giving opposing teams losses and fans a reason to cheer. They ended the 2009 calendar year by winning six of their last eight games and finishing the month of December with an overall record of 14-18-0-3. Right winger Darren Haydar was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week ending December 27th, recording eight points (5G, 3A) in three wins that week. Monsters center T.J. Hensick earned the AHL Player of the Month honors in his first full month back from the NHL by netting 23 points (4G, 19A) in 13 games in December. He became the first player in Lake Erie Monsters history to earn the award.

During December the Monsters teamed up with the Cavaliers and Charter One to host a toy drive. Fans were able to help underprivileged children by donating new, unwrapped toys at Quicken Loans Arena which would be distributed through different agencies throughout Northeast Ohio. Then Monsters players collected the toys and, with the help of some of the Cavaliers players, passed them out to the children at The Q. The event, deemed “Cavs Tree Giveaway,” also saw the Monsters players decorate Christmas trees and pass them out to families as well as making cookies, Christmas ornaments, and skating with the children.

The year 2010 came with some much deserved personal accolades for two Monsters. To begin the year, Haydar was named the AHL Player of the Decade. In his eight-year career in the AHL, Haydar had amassed 571 points (217G, 354A) in 531 games. Haydar was also named to the Canadian All-Star Team in the AHL All-Star Classic but was unable to compete due to an injury. Taking his spot, Hensick played for PlanetUSA in the All-Star Game, his second in three years, and recorded a goal and an assist in a shootout loss to the Canadian All-Stars.

The Monsters have made some excellent strides to put them in a position to fight for a playoff spot toward the end of the season. Winning seven of the first 11 games in 2010, the Monsters currently own a record of 21-21-0-4 and are three points out of a playoff position. Through 46 games last season the Monsters were 18-22-1-5.

The new year has also seen the franchise set a record-breaking attendance mark. On January 22nd, 18,626 Monsters fans came to The Q to witness a 5-4 overtime triumph against the Texas Stars. The crowd was also the fifth-largest in the 74-year regular season history of the AHL.

The Monsters fans who have attended the games this season have witnessed a variety of special promotions just for them. Some of the promotions have included: Friday’s Dollar Dogs and sodas along with postgame family skating, Glow-in-the-Dark T-shirt giveaway, Shaq bobblehead, Twilight Night, Thunderstick giveaway, and many others.

Through the first half of the season, the Monsters are led in points by Haydar and Hensick, who are tied with 35, are led in assists by Hensick (26), are led in goals by rookie Ryan Stoa (18) and are paced by Haydar with four game-winning goals.

If the past is any indication of the future, the Monsters look to be in a strong position to compete for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

Notable 2009-10 Monsters Stats

• Franchise record four-game road-winning streak (1/9 – 1/15)

• The Monsters have had three shutouts (10/20 at Texas, 10/21 at Houston, 12/27 at Toronto)

• There have been two hat tricks this season: Darren Haydar, 12/13 vs. Chicago; and Phil Dupuis, 12/22 vs. Rochester

• The Monsters recorded a franchise best seven-goal victory in a 7-0 stomp against the Toronto Marlies on December 27th

• A season-high seven-game point streak from T.J. Hensick (1/8 – 1/22)

• Franchise record five power play goals vs. Grand Rapids, 11/8

• The team tied a franchise record for the fewest shots allowed in a game, yielding 18 against Peoria, 12/29

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