The View From The Booth...Three-In-Three

Happy Holidays and hello again, hockey fans, and welcome to the latest edition of "The View From The Booth." I must admit, the view from the booth Sunday against the Chicago Wolves was awesome! The Monsters played, in my opinion, their best game of the season. It was a 7-3 win over the Wolves and every aspect of the Monsters game was in tact. Even strength play was solid, the power play was on for a pair of goals and the penalty kill was stellar, denying the Wolves a power play goal. The physical tone the Monsters played with was another huge key to their success in scoring a season-high seven goals. They also showed their ability to go to the net and create traffic and score, which allowed the Monsters to open up the game in other areas. By going to the net and getting in the kitchen of the goaltender, it opened up the perimeter game as well, sort of like a football team that sets up the pass by establishing the run. It was a great sight to see the Monsters score in a variety of different ways. It shows that when they play like that, they can play with any team in the AHL.

There were many highlights in the game, including Darren Haydar netting a hat trick, Brett Skinner tying a franchise record with four assists and Billy Sauer earning his first AHL win! The Monsters scored very early in the game and set the tone when Haydar scored just 35 seconds into the game for his first of three goals on the day. Haydar was in top form during the game, scoring the first and final goals of the game. The final goal he scored was a nifty and athletic play, as he reached over his head to grab the puck, dropped it in the crease, and knocked it over the line. Haydar showed Sunday why he is one of the top players to ever play in the AHL.

T.J. Hensick also had his best game as a Monster so far this season. He was great with the puck, and has so much talent that allows him to distribute the puck and get into open space. His goal that made it 2-0 was a pretty backdoor play that Tom Preissing made a terrific pass on. Preissing was very good in the win as well. He seems to really be settling in on the blue line and he can change a game with his vision and passing ability. Hensick also was assessed a five-minute major for fighting, showing his toughness and determination. Dropping the gloves is not T.J.'s game, but I really appreciate his ability to respond to the challenge.

Marty Sertich also had a highlight reel goal, showing why, in my opinion, hockey players have the best hand/eye coordination of any professional athletes. Sertich was in the slot and found the puck in mid-air and gave a baseball swing and knocked the puck in. The goal proved to be the game winner. On the other side of the ice, Sertich played against two of his best friends, Chicago forwards Brett Sterling and Joey Crabb. The three played on the same line in college at Colorado College and by the time their collegiate careers were over, Sertich won the Hobey Baker Award, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, which is given out every year to college hockey's top player. I had a chance to talk with Marty and Sterling Saturday prior to the game and it was quite entertaining to talk with them about the good 'ol days in college and about their relationship today that is still a very strong bond. Hockey is such a small world, and I like to refer to it as a "tangled web." Everyone seems to know everyone and have a connection to someone else on the other side every single night in the AHL.

Billy Sauer started his first home game for the Monsters against Chicago Sunday and he earned his first AHL win. Congrats to Billy, who had his parents in the stands watching him. I ran into his mom on Saturday night - what a nice lady. I've known Billy since he was a freshman at the University of Michigan, when he started his college hockey career as a 17-year-old, a very rare occurrence. It was great to see Billy get the win Sunday, and every goal that went in was off some kind of iron. Brett Sterling hit the goal post twice and scored and Andrew Kozek did as well. Sauer remained calm and focused in the net en route to the 7-3 win.

Brett Skinner played extremely well in the win, picking up a franchise best four assists. He was extremely involved from the offensive end and I thought as a whole the entire defense was solid. I have really enjoyed watching the progress the last couple of weeks of Ray Macias and Travis Gawryletz. Both guys have been really sound in their own end lately. Macias played a terrific game Friday in Grand Rapids in the 4-3 shootout loss. He was very active in the defensive end, knocking away several passes and scoring opportunities. Gawryletz has just been solid since his first game on the day after Thanksgiving. He's steady and plays a very strong and physical defensive game.

Early in the game, Monsters forward Patrick Bordeleau made a crushing check on Anthony Stewart who is the older brother of former Monsters forward and current Avalanche forward Chris Stewart. The check was a clean hit, but did it knock a filling or two loose on Anthony Stewart? Maybe. After the hit, Chicago's Josh Gratton skated up to Bordeleau and basically sucker punched him. I didn't care for that and I know Bordeleau didn't. The young man will fight anyone in the AHL and can hold his own with, from what I've seen, any player in the league. Bordeleau got his shot to drop the gloves in an honest one-on-one fight late the game when he and Stewart went. Bordeleau, as usual, was throwing hammers with the right hand. He also scored his first goal of the season late in Saturday's game against Chicago. His offensive game has improved greatly since the start of the season, which is great to see from such a good and entertaining guy.

I know the weekend of three games in three days didn't end with the Monsters taking all three games, but it did end with a great victory Sunday. Friday's game in Grand Rapids was a dynamite effort from David Quinn's team which included Derek Peltier, now up with the Avalanche, tying the game with a blast with 2:12 left in regulation. It also featured Ryan Stoa, also now up with the Avalanche, scoring late in the second period. Stoa also scored in the fifth round of the shootout, as he was the Monsters last chance and he came through when he blew the puck past the goaltender to force the sixth round of the shootout that saw Griffins rookie Tomas Tatar score the winning goal. I don't know what's in the water in Grand Rapids, but both times the Monsters have played there the games have went to shootouts. Grand Rapids has won both, so the Monsters are due to win the next one, and maybe it will happen on January 3rd when the team returns to Michigan. That game is also a TV game for us so hopefully we get the excitement of the shootout for the fans back here in Cleveland.

Saturday's game was certainly not pretty, a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Wolves. But I love the way the players responded on Sunday with a solid start to finish the weekend. The Monsters will look to continue Sunday's play this coming weekend up in Winnipeg when it's a pair of games against the Manitoba Moose. Both games on Friday and Saturday at 8:28pm Cleveland time with the pre-game show on ESPN 850 WKNR. I hope you'll join me for the call of both games. When these two teams met in Cleveland in mid-October, the Moose won the first night, 3-2, while the Monsters responded for a 5-2 win the next night.

I will check in again for another edition of "The View From The Booth" once the team arrives in Winnipeg on Thursday afternoon!

Have a great holiday season, and that's it for this edition of "The View From The Booth."

Sincerely,

Ben Holden

The View from the Booth Archive:
Volume 1 (10/21)
Volume 2 (10/23)
Volume 3 (10/28)
Volume 4 (11/03)
Volume 5 (11/16)
Volume 6 (11/24)
Volume 7 (12/4)

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