Monsters Fall To West's Best

Returning home for the first time since late February, the Lake Erie Monsters dropped a 5-3 decision to the Western Conference-leading Hamilton Bulldogs in front of more than 11,300 fans at Quicken Loans Arena Friday night. With the loss, the Monsters drop to 30-32-0-7 while the Bulldogs pick up their 100th point of the season and move to 46-15-3-5.

Brock Trotter started the scoring for the Bulldogs, netting his team-leading 30th goal at the 5:42 mark of the first on the power play. Standing in the high slot, Trotter buried a rebound past the low blocker of Tyler Weiman to give Hamilton an early lead. David Desharnais and Andre Benoit picked up the assists on the goal.

Less than five minutes after Trotter’s power play score, P.K. Subban put the Bulldogs ahead two with a man advantage marker of his own. After an attempted cross-crease pass from Desharnais was broken up by a Monsters defenseman, the puck came to Subban on the goal line. Spinning around, Subban threw a backhander on net that hit the skate of a Monster defender in front and trickled in past Weiman.

Despite putting 12 shots on Hamilton goalie Curtis Sanford, the Monsters would be unable to dent the scoreboard in the first period, and would head into period number two down a pair.

Less than two minutes into the middle frame, the Monsters cut the Hamilton lead in half on Brian Fahey’s eighth of the season on the power play. With the puck on the goal line, Justin Mercier spotted defenseman Fahey coming on from his spot at the point. Hitting him in stride with a pass, Fahey fanned on the one-time attempt, sending the puck fluttering in the air toward Sanford’s cage. Screened in front, Sanford was unable to see the puck drop over his sprawled out body and into the net. Randy Rowe notched the second assist on the goal.

Before the Monsters could tie the game, Hamilton would push their lead to two again, this time thanks to an Andrew Conboy tally. On a three-on-two break, Conboy, who was in the slot, took a pass from the wall from the Aaron Palushaj. With his head up, Conboy snapped a wrister past Weiman’s glove at the11:20 mark of the second. Ryan White picked up the second assist on the goal.

Hamilton would push the score to 4-1 six minutes later, when Mike Glumac netted his 17th of the season, unassisted. Fighting for puck possession below the goal line, Glumac threw the puck out in front, watching as it pinball off a Monsters skate in front and into the back of the net.

But Lake Erie wouldn’t let the Bulldogs run away with the game, and Ryan Stoa would close the gap to two at the 14:17 mark with his 21st of the season. Spotting Fahey in the slot, T.J. Hensick hit the defenseman with a pass. His head up, Fahey’s shot was kicked out by Sanford to the circle where Stoa stood waiting. The net open, Stoa pushed the rebound into the yawning net to bring the Monsters within two.

Taking a two-goal lead into the third period was not something the Monsters would allow the Bulldogs to do, and Ray Macias would put up his fifth of the season with 29 seconds left in the middle frame to cut the Hamilton lead to one. Cutting down the middle of the ice at a breakneck pace, Macias deflected a pass from Hensick on his backhand over Sanford’s blocker. Captain Brian Willsie picked up the second assist on the goal, Lake Erie’s second power play score of the night.

Heading into regulation’s final 20 minutes down one, the Monsters would be unable to crack the Bulldogs defense or Sanford. Before time ran out, Ryan Russell iced the game for the Bulldogs, pushing the puck into an empty net with three seconds left in the third.

“I thought we played pretty well,” said Monsters head coach David Quinn. “Hamilton does a great job getting pucks and bodies to the net, and two goals went off skates in front. Now we’ve got to put this behind us, get ready for Saturday night and continue to look forward.”

Sanford ended the night making 21 saves on 24 shots while Weiman turned away 17 of 21 shots in his first start since February 13th.

The Monsters return to the ice Saturday, when they host the Abbotsford Heat at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available and can be purchased by calling (216) 420-0000, by visiting LakeErieMonsters.com or by visiting any Northern Ohio Discount Drug Mart.

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