Monsters Take on Marlies

It’ll be the first of eight meetings this season between the Lake Erie Monsters and defending Western Conference Champion Toronto Marlies when the two teams meet at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Sunday afternoon.  The Monsters are coming off a season-opening split in two home games against the Oklahoma City Barons; they won Friday, but fell short yesterday by a 3-2 score.  The Marlies took their home opener by a 3-1 count, and are looking for consecutive wins.  All of the action live from Toronto can be heard on AM 1220 WHKW and on www.lakeeriemonsters.com.

The Monsters are allowing an average of just two goals per game over their first two contests, and two of their goals allowed- both that Oklahoma City mustered in the first period Saturday- were the products of unfortunate bounces into the Monsters net.  The Monsters held the Barons top players, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, scoreless in the two games.  The Monsters were also 13-of-14 on the penalty kill, which will prove to be important against a very talented Toronto club that was 3-for-8 on the power play in their first game, a 3-1 win over Rochester. 

Defensively, the Monsters were up to the task against the high-powered Barons offense, but offensively, the Monsters posted 29 shots on Friday and 39 shots on Saturday.  They’ll need to continue the onslaught of shots against Ben Scrivens, who led the AHL in goals against average (2.04) last season.  Furthermore, the Toronto offense is going to get its share of opportunities, so it’ll take some scoring punch to beat the Marlies.  Keith Aucoin, who had 70 points in 43 AHL games last season, Mike Zigomanis, and Ryan Hamilton are the steady veteran forwards.  Joe Colborne, Carter Ashton, Nazem Kadri, and Jerry D’Amigo, who was around a point-per-game in the playoffs last spring, lead a talented group of prospects up-front for Toronto. 

A player to watch for the Monsters early in the campaign is Brad Malone.  The second-year power forward has assists in each of the Monsters first two games, and is making a statement by throwing his body around on the ice.  He made things difficult for the top line of Oklahoma City over the first two games of the season, and will need to continue his physical play.  Monsters fans will need to keep an eye on Colborne, who was streaky and inconsistent last season, but was always dangerous when the puck was on his stick.  This season, at least early, Colborne may not have to shoulder the top-line load he did early last season, which could make things easier on the former first-rounder.  Colborne had nine points in 10 games against the Monsters last season; second only to D’Amigo, who had 10 points in 10 games against the Monsters.

The Monsters stiff opening weekend test continues; three games in three days against the two Western Conference Finalists from last Spring.  If the Monsters can top Toronto and emerge with four-of-six points on the weekend, it would be a major early-season statement to the rest of the West.
 


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