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View From The Booth...Canadian Road TripTweet
Hello again, hockey fans, and welcome to another edition of "The View From The Booth." Lately, my view of the Monsters has been great! The team is really playing well lately. The road trip that started last Friday here in Hamilton, Ontario – the same place I’m writing this from and where half of the six-game, 11-day road trip is taking place – is where the Monsters are now. Currently on the trip, we’re 2-1 after Monday's great comeback win over the first place Hamilton Bulldogs.
Monday's win was an incredible effort by the players and I would put it at the top of the wins so far this season. The victory was a total team effort. Hamilton took a 2-0 lead in the 1st period on a pair of power play goals but that did not phase the Monsters at all. They played with passion, purpose, grit, determination and heart for the remainder of the game. It was a lot like Saturday's big win at Rochester, which I will get to later.
As for Monday's win, the top line of Brian Willsie, T.J. Hensick and Ryan Stoa was great. Willsie and Hensick did some great work in the corners and along the goal line to get the puck to the net where Stoa knocked in his team leading 16th goal of the season, also his eighth power play goal of the season, which is one behind Darren Haydar's team-leading nine power play goals. Stoa's goal made it 2-1 Hamilton after 40 minutes and the Monsters had won just one other game all season when they trailed after 40 minutes, as they were 1-16-0-1. The emphasis on "were," because in the 3rd period the Monsters came out firing on all cylinders.
Stoa scored his second goal of the night and team leading 17th of the season when he took a pass from Hensick and blistered a shot by Hamilton goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, the same guy that Stoa beat on Friday night and was later robbed by late in the game when it was 2-1. But Stoa had the last laugh Monday with his game-tying snipe in the 3rd period. That set the stage for a furious finish by the Monsters, as they had chance after chance to tie the game in the 3rd period in a game that would end up going to the sudden death frame.
That's when the Monsters showed their teeth and took the extra point, a point that moved the hockey club one point away from 5th place in the North Division standings behind the Grand Rapids Griffins. A holding penalty was called on Hamilton's Andre Benioit, and that's when the Monsters took advantage of a rare 4-on-3 overtime power play. With 1:02 left in the overtime session, Willsie got the puck to Hensick who then moved the puck through the slot and hit Marty Sertich in the skate. Sertich then played it to his stick and beat Desjardins for the game winner!
A great comeback was then complete for the Monsters who clearly earned that win! Sertich has three game winners this season including getting both game winners in the past two games. Now that's what I call clutch! Sertich has taken his game to a high level in the last few weeks, and he's getting into the grade A scoring areas and he's been rewarded with his hard work and determination. He's also very good on faceoffs as well.
Back to Ryan Stoa for a minute now. He now leads the Monsters with 17 goals, and also has eight tallies on the power play. His 17 goals lead AHL rookies and his eight on the power play also leads AHL rookies. The young man has been fun to watch, because when he gets the slightest opening he's making opponents pay. He's been able to use that huge reach and quick hands he has to make opposing goalies pay the price lately, and it's been really fun to watch his progression and his development as a pro.
Brian Willsie is another guy that's really been playing well. He has been playing at a very high level and he's been rewarded by getting serious ice time on the top line and the top power play unit. Among the things I really appreciate and respect about his game is the fact that he does all the little things and is really a great leader for this team.
Going back to the start of this road trip, the second-longest of the season for the Monsters, Friday's game here in Hamilton was a 3-1 loss but it could have easily been a win for our guys instead. It was a 2-1 game late in the third before Hamilton pulled the goalie and salted the game away with an empty net goal. The Monsters have played Hamilton tough in all three of the games here in Canada so far this season. The fourth and final regular season meeting in Hamilton comes up Wednesday and I would expect the same kind of game as we've seen these two teams play in the previous three games, which has been tight, low scoring, intense and down to the wire.
Before this season the Monsters had never won at Copps Coliseum here in Hamilton, and now they've won here twice in the last three games! Looking back at Saturday's game now, it was a great win for the Monsters and another valuable pair of points they took from the Rochester Americans. In fact, since mid-December when the Monsters starting turning their season around, they have won 10 of 14 games, and picked up points in 11 of those 14 games as well as winning eight of those 10 games against North Division foes. That's going to be huge down the stretch as the club aims to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
The 3-1 win at Rochester on Saturday was a great win by the Monsters. Phil Dupuis scored his eighth of the season early in the game, and it was the sixth goal he's scored against Rochester this season. Rochester tied the game later in the 1st period and then the Americans carried the play over the remainder of the first and then the second period. Billy Sauer, a Rochester, New York, native, got the start in goal and was brilliant between the pipes stopping 32 of 33 shots. It was the first time Sauer had been on the ice at Blue Cross Arena in his hometown since he skated there as a youngster during one of the intermissions. Billy made the most of his return home and had about 40 family and friends on hand to watch the game. The game marked his third straight win and second straight victory on the road.
The Monsters came alive in the 3rd period and stormed the Rochester net and it was Sertich who tipped in a Ray Macias shot that proved to be the game-winning goal. Hensick added an empty net goal to seal the win.
This team is different now than it was early in the season. Previously, when they would go down a goal or two earlier in the year, it seemed like the life was taken away from them. But now this team has come together and a one or two-goal deficit is not such a downer anymore. It seems in watching the team that they thrive on the challenge and lately they have been answering the bell in a big way. It's been great to watch this team come together and win games.
Wednesday night I think we'll see another tight game with great intensity. I know the Monsters are hoping Darren Haydar will make his return to the lineup, but we'll see. I talked with Darren for quite awhile Monday at the morning skate, and for him to not be in the lineup has been very tough. Aside from Haydar, it’s tough for any player because their livelihood has been taken away. I think once Darren returns to the lineup he'll pick up his scoring pace where he was before the injury happened here in Hamilton on January 2nd.
Looking ahead to the weekend series out in Abbotsford, British Columbia, the two games vs. the Heat are going to be huge for the Monsters. They are right on the cusp of making it into the top four in the North Division. I think both games out in British Columbia will have a playoff feel to them like the games have been here in Hamilton. The Monsters dropped a 2-1 game to the Heat on November 1st at The Q, and it came after the Monsters had played back-to-back games vs. Peoria. David Quinn's team is much different and better now than it was then. Personally, I like our chances out west and think the guys will continue their solid play.
I am also looking forward to getting to Abbotsford and seeing Western Canada. I will definitely be shooting some videos for our website to share with you. I know Josh Aspenlind, Brock Bradford and Travis Gawryletz will be fired up to play in their native province, as all three guys are from the Vancouver area and that's always special for anyone when they get to go home and play.
That's it for this edition of "The View From The Booth." I hope you will join me for the play-by-play action for the remaining games on this road trip on the home of the Monsters, ESPN 850 WKNR. Wednesday's game is a 7:28 p.m. start time while Friday's game starts at 10:28 p.m. and Saturday will be a 6:58 start time on ESPN 850. Talk to you soon.
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