The View From The Booth...Season Goes On
Hello again, hockey fans, and welcome to another edition of the "View From The Booth." Time is really flying by, and it’s hard to believe, but it's the middle of November already! It seems like the season started just a couple of weeks ago but we're already 17 games in! After this past weekend’s two home games, the Monsters are 7-9-0-1.
First, I'd like to look back at the two games the hockey club played against the Grand Rapids Griffins. The first game was Sunday, November 8th at The Q and were there ever some big time offensive fireworks. The game started out great for the Monsters, as the team netted two power play goals in the first three minutes, jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
One of those goals came off the stick of veteran defenseman Brian Fahey, who has one of the hardest and most accurate shots I’ve seen in the AHL. Brian has a knack of getting into position to take the puck in a one-time fashion and when it's in his wheelhouse he can absolutely rip shots that are extremely tough for opposing goaltenders to see and stop. Brian is a great weapon on the power play and I certainly hope to see and call many more of his shots and goals. In his time with the Chicago Wolves, Brian was a weapon that helped the Wolves win the Calder Cup. Let's hope his success in the attacking zone continues; personally, I think it will!
Anyway, let me get back to that game with the Griffins on November 8th. It reminded me of a 1980's Smythe Division game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. The game was up and down the ice with goals scored at a feverish pace; it was fun to call and I'm sure just as fun to watch. But as Monsters TV Analyst Sean Ricthlin pointed out during our broadcast on FS Ohio, it was a coach’s nightmare.
After the first period, which the Monsters take a 2-0 lead, the Griffins came out storming in the second period and scored four consecutive goals, taking a 4-2 lead. The Monsters rebounded and eventually tied the game. Darren Haydar scored the prettiest goal to date when he skated up the right wing and got Griffins goalie Thomas McCollum thinking that he was going to pass the puck into the slot before going top shelf on the rookie netminder. It was very impressive and something Haydar can do as good as any player in the league.
After the second, the game was tied at 5-5. Yes, eight goals were scored in 20 minutes. The last time I called a game with a period like that was back in my CCHA days when Ohio State played Michigan at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor.
The third period brought more goals, and when Chris Durno scored to make it 6-5 I got the feeling the last team with the puck would win. And, unfortunately, that ended up being the case. The Griffins were the last team with the puck in a key situation and they won the game 8-6 after an empty net goal in the dying seconds of the game. The Monsters finished the game going 5/6 on the power play and so far this season the five power play goals are an AHL single game high – a mark that will be tough to break.
Following that game on Sunday it was off to Grand Rapids, as we left on Tuesday, November 10th for a Wednesday afternoon game at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I must admit it was a different feeling going back to my home state and riding past the exit on US-23 that is about 10 minutes from where I lived before moving to Cleveland. It was different, but a great feeling as I could not be happier to be with the Monsters organization. Everything about the organization is first class, and I'm having so much fun working with such great people and players each and every day. I truly am living my dream as a broadcaster.
As for the game in Grand Rapids, the team was well rested and prepared for a noon start against the Griffins. Rookie goalie Trevor Cann got the start in net. Tyler Weiman was slated to start, but was just too sick to suit up and play. Trevor did a great job in the game. It was the best he's played in his young and promising pro career. The Griffins scored in the first period on the power play and there was nothing Trevor could do to stop their power play goal. The puck was sent into the crease on a perfect pass by Kris Newbury and it landed right on the stick of Jeremy Williams to make it 1-0 after the opening period.
In the 2nd and 3rd periods Cann continued to stop shot after shot to keep his team in the game. I hope it will be a great confidence booster for him as the season continues. In the late stages of the 3rd period, the Monsters got on the score board when Chris Durno and Marty Sertich teamed up to help set up rookie winger Brock Bradford, who scored on Griffins goaltender Daniel Larrson from the bottom of the right circle. The goal was Bradford's fifth of the season, and knotted the game at one.
In my opinion, one of the big reasons Bradford is off to such a great start is his release and his hands. The young man can shoot the puck in a hurry. It's been fun to watch his progression; he's got a great attitude and terrific hockey sense. Bradford's goal forced overtime and that solved nothing so the shootout was the next order of business.
But on this afternoon the bounces were not with the Monsters in the shootout. Daniel Larrson stopped all five shooters and Kris Newbury of the Griffins was the only player to score in the shootout, giving the Griffins a 2-1 win. But like in the game of golf, there is always a positive in everything, and the positive for the Monsters on this day was they earned a valuable point on the road. You never know when that one point might come back to help us down the road!
From there it was back home to Cleveland and then Friday's game at The Q against the Houston Aeros, a team the Monsters had shutout back on October 21st in Houston. But on Friday the 13th, the Monsters had no luck against the Aeros, dropping the contest, 6-0. It was an extremely disappointing loss.
But the beauty of pro hockey was in plain sight of the Monsters. They had a chance at redemption the next afternoon at 1 o'clock and the players and coaches responded very well. The game was very physical and played at a very high pace with vigor and emotion, two things the Monsters knew they had to play with. Phil Dupuis, fresh off his call-up with the Avs, came out and set the tone early on with his high-energy type effort, nearly scoring in the early stages of the game. To me, he's the kind of player that makes others around him better because they feed off of his energy and gritty play.
Brian Willsie, our captain, stepped up his play with a beautiful backhand goal to make it 1-0. Shortly after his goal, Willsie and defenseman Brett Skinner helped set up Haydar for a power play goal on the doorstep to make it 2-0. The Aeros battled back to make it 2-1 and then, with about three minutes left in the game, they pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker. Monsters head coach David Quinn called a timeout to make sure his players knew exactly what to do and where to be for the attempted onslaught the Aeros were trying to bring to the Monsters net. Tyler Weiman was tested in this situation and he passed with flying colors.
I thought it was fitting that Fahey found the puck in front of Weiman and slid it down the ice to the open net, securing the win, 3-1. Fahey played a very physical, sound, smart game on Saturday, as did the entire team. It was great to see such a team effort on the heels of Friday's disappointing loss. To me it showed what pros we have on our team and on our staff. Everyone came back to the building Saturday morning with their "A" game in tact and it translated into a huge win.
So now the Monsters will prepare for a three-game set with the Toronto Marlies. Friday the Marlies are at The Q for a 7:29 p.m. start on ESPN 850 WKNR. Our radio start times are now a minute earlier. If we play at the bottom of an hour, the games on radio will begin a minute prior to that start time; if we play at the top of the hour, we'll start at :59 after the hour. That’s just for radio games. TV games will start at exactly the top and bottom of the hours.
After Friday's game at The Q - which is reversible ski hat night for the first 5,000 fans in the building - we’ll head to Toronto for a Sunday afternoon game on the 22nd. That game will be a 3:59 start on the radio and then on Thanksgiving Eve, November 25th, we'll face the Marlies, with the coverage beginning at 10:59.
The next three games for the Monsters against Marlies should be very entertaining and intense as we begin the week tied with the Marlies for sixth place in the North Division.
I hope we see some "Old Time Hockey” between the teams as they will meet three times over the course of six days beginning on Friday, November 20th.
We are still working and are close to starting our new segment called "No Holden Back," where you can email me questions and I'll do my best to answer them during the radio games.
And finally, I must give props to our in-house production team at The Q, or the fine folks at QTV as they are known in the building for their work on the in-game presentation and production. As I continue to make my way around the league to different venues, it's become clear to me our staff at QTV is the best in the league. Keep up the great work everyone!
That's it for this installment of "The View From The Booth." I hope to see you at the rink this Friday night. If you can’t join me, please tune in on ESPN 850 WKNR, Cleveland's KNR2, AM 1540 or AHL Live, for each and every Monsters game.