OT Win in Front of Biggest Crowd Ever

In front of a franchise-record crowd of 18,626 Friday night at Quicken Loans Arena, the Lake Erie Monsters made sure their fans got their money’s worth in a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory. Friday’s attendance figure is also the fifth largest in the 74-year regular-season history of the American Hockey League. After taking a three-goal lead into the third period, the Monsters would give up four goals in regulation’s final 20 minutes before coming back to win the game in the five-minute sudden death frame.

Former Miami University of Ohio RedHawk Justin Mercier was the hero Friday night, recording his third multi-point game of the season, posting three points (2G, 1A), including the game-winning goal with 39 seconds left in overtime. With the win, the Monsters improve to 21-20-0-4 while the Stars drop to 23-13-3-4.

The first 20 minutes of the game would go by without score thanks to stellar goaltending from Tyler Weiman and Matt Climie. For the Monsters, Weiman turned away 10 shots in the first frame while Climie denied all 11 shots Lake Erie put on net in the first period.

After a relatively quiet first period scoring wise, the Monsters came out firing in the second period, racking up three goals in a 13-minute span.

The first tally of the period and the game was recorded by All-Star center T.J. Hensick at the 6:38 mark of the second. Stepping out from the behind the net, captain Brian Willsie put a backhander on net that was followed up by Mercier. After stopping the initial shots, Climie kicked out the rebound to Hensick, who buried it past the low glove of the Texas goalie, giving the Monsters a 1-0 lead. With the goal, Hensick has registered a point in the past seven straight games, tallying 10 points (5G, 5A) in that span.

Following up Hensick’s goal, Tom Zanoski recorded his first goal in his first game as a Monster midway through the second. Zanoski was just signed to a professional tryout contract on Thursday. Driving the net, Zanoski took a pass from the wall from Derek Peltier and deflected the puck on his backhand over the glove of Climie. Marty Sertich recorded the secondary assist on the goal.

Before the second period would end, Mercier would push the Lake Erie lead to three on his fifth goal of the year. Standing in the low slot, Mercier one-timed a pass from behind the net from Phil Dupuis in between Climie’s arm and body with just 26 seconds left in the second to give the Monsters a three-goal lead.

Heading into the third down by three, the Stars would claw their way back into the game on Travis Morin’s ninth of the season at the 7:50 mark on the power play. Standing in front of Weiman, Morin knocked in a rebound to get the Stars back in it. Garrett Stafford and Perttu Lindgren picked up the assists.

But just two minutes later, Matt Ford picked up his seventh of the season, recording his fourth goal in the past four games. Cutting down the left side of the Texas zone, Ford took a pass from the wall from Brock Bradford and ripped a snap shot past Climie, giving the Monsters a three-goal cushion midway through the third.

Down but not out, Texas would keep fighting back, eventually tallying three goals in seven minutes to tie the game. The Stars second goal of the period and the game – coming on the power play and at the 12-minute mark of the third – was Mathieu Beaudoin’s 11th of the season. Off to Weiman’s right, Beaudoin took a cross-ice feed from Morin and put the puck in the lower part of the net past Weiman’s blocker. Perttu Lindgren notched the second assist on the goal.

It would take another five minutes, but the Stars would pull within one at the 17:22 mark of the third on Ivan Vishnevskiy’s seventh goal of the season. At the point, Vishnevskiy’s slapshot rang off the post and past Weiman, making it a 4-3 game. Morin and Aaron Gagnon picked up the assists.

Then, with 40 seconds left in regulation, Stafford’s fourth goal of the season – assisted by Morin and Vishnevskiy – sent the game into a sudden death frame.

In overtime, the Monsters would go on the power play when Sergei Korostin took a hooking penalty 2:16 in. And although Lake Erie was unable to convert on the man advantage, Mercier notched the game-winner right as time expired on the penalty. On the left circle, Mercier took a pass from the point from Sertich who was at the point. With the puck on his stick, Mercier fired a wrister past the blocker of Climie, just inside the post with 39 seconds left in overtime, sending the record-setting crowd at The Q into a mad house. Bradford picked up the secondary assist on the goal.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to score in front of 18,000 people,” said Mercier. “These fans are the greatest, and it’s nice that they’re able to come out and supports us.”

Notching three assists, Sertich picked up his first three-point game of the season and his fifth multi-point game of the year while Willsie registered his ninth multi-point performance of the season with a pair of assists. Bradford recorded his fourth multi-point game of the season with two helpers.

Weiman finished the night making 33 saves on 37 shots for his fourth consecutive win while Climie turned away 37 of 42 shots.

The Monsters and Stars turn around and face each other for the fourth and final time in the regular season less than 24 hours later for a 1:00 p.m. faceoff at The Q Saturday. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (216) 420-0000, by visiting LakeErieMonsters.com or by visiting any Northern Ohio Discount Drug Mart.

Sights and Sounds
 
Head Coach David Quinn Interview
 
Justin Mercier Postgame Interview

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