Last Game Before Break Tonight

In five meetings against tonight's opponent, the Hamilton Bulldogs, so far this season, the Lake Erie Monsters (19-22-2-1) have won four times. The most recent victory was Tuesday night's 4-1 triumph in which four different goal scorers lit the lamp for the Monsters, and Lake Erie goalie Gerald Coleman stood tall during several Hamilton offensive flurries- especially in the second period- en route to the win. Considering the Monsters success against Hamilton this season, a game against the Bulldogs could be exactly what the club needs in order to rebound from Thursday's 6-2 loss to Toronto.

Coleman followed his 37 save performance from Tuesday- which included a season-best 19 saves in the second period alone- with a start Thursday evening that didn't see him last the entire opening period. The Monsters surrendered five first-period goals, which ties a franchise record for goals allowed in a period. Two of the goals against in the first period were shorthanded goals; a total that also ties a franchise high for shorthanded goals allowed.

With Thursday's game in the rearview, the Monsters can look to what led to the success on Tuesday in another win over a Hamilton team that had won 12 of 20 entering the night: the team was opportunistic, and had a solid goaltending performance. The opportunities on offense were seized by some of the Monsters biggest offensive threats: Patrick Rissmiller, Hugh Jessiman, Evan Brophey and Ryan Stoa accounted for the goals. Mark Olver assisted on three of the Monsters four goals.

The Monsters will look to the power play as a catalyst to boost an offense that has struggled to find itself as of late. With the man advantage, the Monsters have now converted on five of their last 23 opportunities; a very respectable rate. However, the shots on net have been at a premium; the club has managed 30 or more shots in just three of its last 14 games. Oddly enough, though, the Monsters have won just one of the aforementioned three games in which they totaled 30 shots or more.

Back to the topic of Stoa: his highlight reel goal late in Tuesday's game may not have seemed so at first glance, but anyone who has seen the replay understands the incredible difficulty of the play. Stoa had a goal and an assist in the game, and the Monsters are now 11-4-0-0 when the power forward registers a point. He's a true difference-maker, and put the final bite in the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Stoa will be an important part of tonight's bounce-back effort.

Louis LeBlanc, a first-round draft choice of Hamilton's parent club, the Montreal Canadiens, was the 18th overall pick in 2009. Tuesday night, he fired nine shots on Coleman, finally beating him in the second period with a carefully-picked top-corner shot. The goal was Hamilton's only tally. LeBlanc is a must-see talent in the AHL who has enjoyed 14 games in the NHL with the Canadiens this season. Even though he's a Bulldog, fans need to enjoy and appreciate the talents of LeBlanc while he's in town this season. He has matured and grown to be more comfortable as his first professional season has progressed, and is certainly going to be a focal point of the Monsters defense in tonight's game.

The Monsters wrap up their homestand tonight at 7:30 PM against the Bulldogs, with all the action being carried live on radio at ESPN 850 WKNR and on television on FOX Sports Ohio. This game leads the Monsters into the All-Star break, and following the break, the Monsters will visit San Antonio for the first time this season on Friday night.


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