View From the Booth...North Division Weekend

Hello again hockey fans and welcome to another edition of “The View From The Booth."  I hope you had a great holiday season and a Happy New Year. The Monsters definitely did, what a great month of December it was! The month was full of great wins and great moments, by far the best month the hockey club has had so far this season. For me personally, it was awesome to watch the team come together and find its groove.

The Monsters finished the month with five wins in their last six games including the 5-1 New Year’s Eve victory at The Q against the Rochester Americans. That win was decisive and convincing and it featured the Monsters getting goals from five different goal scorers. Darren Haydar opened the scoring, Brian Willsie then followed up with a re-direction of a Derek Peltier shot pass that Willsie put off the goal post to make it 2-0. In the second period with the score 2-1, Willsie then made a great play along the end boards to play the puck with his body and keep the Americans from wrapping the puck around the boards and out of the zone. Willsie then made a quick pass out in front of the net to Marty Sertich who went five-hole to put the Monsters up 3-1 and that goal would prove to be the game winner.

In the third period, rookie Cedric McNicoll scored on a shake-and-bake move down low in front of the net and buried his fourth goal of the season to give the Monsters a 4-1 lead. McNicoll has played his best hockey in the last couple of weeks. The New Year’s Eve scoring parade was completed when rookie Ryan Stoa cashed in on the power play for his 13th goal of the season. Stoa leads all AHL rookies now with those 13 goals. His play has been so impressive over the last month, in fact the top line for the Monsters has been on absolute fire in the last month. Haydar, T.J. Hensick and Stoa have been one of the best lines in the entire American Hockey League and as long as they stay together I believe they will continue to do “heavy damage” to opposing teams in 2010.

The AHL All-Star game is coming up later this month in Portland, Maine and the Monsters will be represented by high scoring winger Darren Haydar, who will make his third All-Star game appearance and the fourth in Monsters franchise history. Darren clearly deserves the honor and I wish him the best later this month! Personally I think Brian Fahey should have been named to the team, but I understand not everyone you think should be on the team, should actually be on the team, I just feel that from the beginning of the season up to now, Fahey has played extremely well.

Moving on to some other items now. As I’ve been writing this edition of “The View From The Booth,” we are on our way to Hamilton, Ontario for a big game Saturday night at Copps Coliseum against the North Division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs. From Hamilton we will overnight it back to the States for a Sunday afternoon game in Grand Rapids against the Griffins, more on that matchup in a moment. But first, a thought or two on the game Saturday night against Hamilton. When the Monsters and Bulldogs met in Cleveland in late November, the Bulldogs had their way with the Monsters, earning two shutouts in two nights and outscoring the Monsters 7-0 in the two games.

But this Monsters team is much, much different then it was back then. I anticipate a great game Saturday night. As the Monsters are different from last time these two teams met, so are the Bulldogs, who back in November had a half-dozen players up with the Montreal Canadiens, most of those players are now back with the Bulldogs. With that said, this Monsters team has been sharp, prepared and resilient in the last month and I think they will bring a great effort and performance to the ice on Saturday. You can listen live to the game beginning at 6:58 p.m. on the radio “Home of the Monsters,"  ESPN 850 WKNR, with yours truly. The pregame portion of the show as always will include my pregame interview with Head Coach David Quinn.

As for Sunday’s game at 4:00 p.m. in Grand Rapids, which you can also watch on MY43 WUAB, it should be an interesting matchup of another of the Monsters' North Division rivals. In two trips to Grand Rapids so far this season the Monsters have come up a goal short in each of those meetings.  In fact both of the games in Grand Rapids have gone to shootouts. Who knows, maybe we’ll see another one on Sunday? If it does go to a shootout again, I like the Monsters chances this time around.

As you may or may not know, both the American and Canadian Olympic teams were announced earlier this week which is making and will continue to make for very interesting discussion with our players since we have a good mix of Americans and Canadians on this year’s Monsters squad. Make sure to listen for some upcoming interviews on the radio broadcasts on the Olympic debate, I will also be doing some TV interviews later this month on the debate, should be a lot of fun for sure!

By the way, our team trainer, Glenn Burke, who I sat across from on the bus ride up to Hamilton, is a proud Canadian and wanted me to include his comments on the USA/Canada Olympic Hockey debate, Burkie says: “Go Canada, Go!”

I hope you enjoyed this edition of “The View From The Booth."  Have a great 2010 and I hope to see you at The Q or on the road for an upcoming Monsters game soon. Feel free to stop down to my broadcast position anytime, I’m in the “Joe Tait Perch” in the front row of the club level behind the Monsters bench. Talk to you next time, until then, GO MONSTERS!!!


Ben Holden.

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