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The Lake Erie Monsters return to North-Division action tonight, when they embark on a five-game road swing with a 7:00 p.m. faceoff against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Monsters are 7-3-0-0 in their last 10 games, while they sit in third place in the North Division with a record of 32-25-3-5 and 72 points.
Monsters vs. Bulldogs
When these two teams met at Quicken Loans Arena on January 29th, the Monsters posted a 4-1 victory to take a two-game lead in the series.
In that game, the two teams were tied at a goal apiece heading into the third period, but Lake Erie rattled off three straight goals en route to their second victory in three days against the Bulldogs.
Justin Mercier (2A) and former Monster Patrick Rissmiller (2G) provided two-point outings for Lake Erie, while Ben Walter and Mark Olver also scored for the Monsters.
Lake Erie’s power play went 2-for-6 in the contest, while Hamilton went scoreless in three chances with the man advantage.
John Grahame made 18 saves on 19 shots in backstopping the Lake Erie win.
About the ‘Dogs
The Bulldogs have been one of the top teams in the North Division for much of the season. Their 75 points currently tie them with Toronto for second-place rights heading into this weekend’s action.
Most recently, Hamilton dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to Rockford on Wednesday night.
Despite the loss, the ‘Dogs are 6-2-0-2 in their last 10 games.
Hamilton’s Nigel Dawes leads the AHL with 33 goals in 54 games played.
The Bulldogs also have the league’s best goaltender, Curtis Sanford. Through 40 appearances this season, Sanford has posted a 22-13-2 record, along with a 1.93 GAA and a .930 save percentage.
Too Close for Comfort
Top to bottom, the North Division is by far the tightest in the AHL. Just 12 points separates first-place Manitoba (76) from last-place Rochester (64).
The Monsters have 15 games remaining on their regular season schedule, 10 of which will be played within the division.
On the Road Again
Tonight, the Monsters embark on a five-game road swing by visiting Hamilton for the first time since January 27th.
Lake Erie played just three road games in the month of February.
Of the 15 games remaining on Lake Erie’s schedule, 10 will be played away from friendly confines.
What We’ve Been Up To
Last weekend Lake Erie split a two-game set with the Rockford IceHogs.
On Friday, the Monsters claimed a 3-2 overtime victory in front of 11,631 at Quicken Loans Arena. Matt Ford notched the decisive tally, marking his seventh game-winner as a Monster, which ties him for first among all-time franchise leaders (Phil Dupuis) in that category.
The IceHogs responded with a 3-2 win of their own in Saturday’s rematch, snapping Lake Erie’s franchise-high seven-game home winning streak.
Prior to that setback, the Monsters had not lost a home game since falling to San Antonio, 5-4, in a shootout back on February 4th. By gaining a point in that contest, the Monsters point streak reached back eight games (7-0-0-1), which is also a franchise high.
For the Record…
The Monsters are on the cusp of two major franchise milestones. With an overall record of 32-25-3-5, Lake Erie is just two victories away from tying its franchise record for wins in a single season (34, 2008-09; 2009-10).
With their next five games on the road, and a road record of 11-16-1-2, the Monsters have an opportunity to break their franchise mark for road victories in a single season (15, 2009-10) before returning to The Q on March 23rd.
Center Ben Walter ran an eight-game point streak (2G, 10A) from February 5th-March 4th, marking the longest point streak of any Monster this season and the third-longest in franchise history (David Jones, 10; T.J. Hensick, 9).
David van der Gulik has recorded six points (2G, 4A) in his last five games.
Matt Ford (2G) and Joel Chouinard (2A) have two points apiece in their last two outings.
Broadcaster Ben Holden previews this weekend's action:
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