A Season of Successes

The Lake Erie Monsters finished the 2008-09 American Hockey League season in style on Saturday night, playing in front of a franchise-record 17,627 fans at Quicken Loans Arena. In just their second year in the AHL, Saturday’s game was the largest crowd of the season in the 29-team league, the second straight year the Monsters have held that honor (15,405 at last year’s season finale). Saturday was also the 11th highest-attended game in the 73-year history of the AHL.

With just under 6,000 fans per game during the 40-game home schedule, Lake Erie finished the season ranked ninth in the league in attendance. That is up from 11th in 2007-08, the team’s first year in the AHL.

This season’s sales were up from last season across the board for the Monsters: +11% in season ticket sales; +35% in group sales; and +33% in corporate sales in 2008-09. Lake Erie even posted the largest group sale in the history of The Q when 4,500 Boy Scouts and their families attended the January 31st game.

The Monsters finished sixth in the Western Conference’s North Division, the same spot they finished last season. However, the team recorded eight more wins and 11 more points in 2008-09. Over the course of the season, the Monsters sent 15 players to their NHL parent club Colorado, including 14 that actually saw game action with the Avalanche. Eleven of those players made their NHL debut this year, an Avalanche record.

“We feel privileged to be operating with what has become an outstanding AHL franchise and a great market in Cleveland,” said Avalanche Assistant General Manager Greg Sherman. “Over the last two seasons, we have seen many of our young players make tremendous strides in development thanks to the efforts of the Lake Erie staff and the environment they have created. We are looking forward to next season and want to thank all of the Monsters fans for their incredible support.”

The Monsters were in the playoff race until the last two weeks of the season, much of which was spurred by a three-week span in February and March when the team won a franchise-record nine of 11 games. Lake Erie also won 10 of 12 at home between January and March. During that time, goaltender Jason Bacashihua won a franchise-best eight straight games. He was named AHL Player of the Week (for the week of 2/23 – 3/01), the first time in franchise history a player had received the award. Fellow goaltender Tyler Weiman posted an AHL-high eight shutouts on the year, becoming the first Monsters player to lead the league in a statistical category. Weiman and defenseman Kyle Cumiskey were also named to the 2009 AHL All-Star Game.

The Monsters players and staff continued their commitment to the Greater Cleveland community that started in 2007-08. The team made dozens of appearances, interacting with several hundred kids throughout the season. The players spent time at local hospitals, visited schools, helped out at youth hockey practices, and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for local charities.

Lake Erie was honored for the second straight year with the Golden Matrix Award for Best Overall Video Display – Minor League Division at the annual IDEA Conference. IDEA is the Information Display and Entertainment Association, which is the most widely recognized association of sporting event presentation and sports video production professionals in the country.

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