Monsters Advance to Conference Finals With OT Win
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Behind an overtime game-winning goal by 18 year-old rookie defenseman Zach Werenski, Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters advanced to the third round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time in franchise history by virtue of a 4-3 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, MI. With the win, the Monsters claimed the Central Division Finals in six games and will take on the defending Calder Cup Champions, the Ontario Reign, the top affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, in the best-of-seven game Western Conference Finals.
Grand Rapids leapt to a 2-0 lead early in the first period in game six behind even-strength scores from Ryan Sproul and Tomas Nosek at 34 seconds and 2:16 of the opening frame, respectively. The Monsters countered with an even-strength Daniel Zaar marker at 3:42, assisted by Michael Chaput and Justin Falk, and headed into the middle stanza trailing by a score of 2-1.
After a power-play goal from Xavier Ouellet at 1:48 of the middle frame, the Monsters countered with a five-on-five marker from Chaput at 3:42 to draw within a goal at 3-2, thanks to assists from Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alex Broadhurst. In the final period, a Lukas Sedlak even-strength goal at 1:43, on feeds from Werenski and Josh Anderson, tied the game at three and 12:32 into the first overtime, a tremendous individual effort by Werenski, on feeds from Anderson and Broadhurst, lifted the Monsters into the third round for the first time ever.
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Joonas Korpisalo surrendered three goals on nine shots in 21:48 of action between the pipes for the Monsters before being pulled in favor of Anton Forsberg, who earned the win thanks to a 23-save relief appearance in net for Lake Erie. Jared Coreau took the loss in net for Grand Rapids despite an impressive 43-save performance.
Next up for the Monsters, it’s game one of the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals vs. Ontario with the full third-round schedule announced in the near future.