Monsters Keep Playoff Hopes Alive With Dramatic 5-4 Win Over Moose

CLEVELAND – The AHL’s defending Calder Cup Champions, the Cleveland Monsters, proudly powered by Constellation, defeated the Manitoba Moose on Thursday at The Q by a final score of 5-4 in the second-to-last game of the regular season. With the win, Cleveland’s 12th in their past 14 games, the Monsters vaulted into fourth place in the AHL’s Central Division standings with a record of 39-28-4-4 and a points percentage of .573.

In order to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs for the third time in franchise history and for the second straight year, a feat never before accomplished by any Monsters team, Cleveland will need to win their final regular-season game, Friday at 7:00 pm vs. Manitoba at The Q, and have the Charlotte Checkers lose at least one of their final two games.

Manitoba grabbed a 1-0 lead at 4:34 of the opening period when J.C. Lipon wired a right-circle wrister past Cleveland goaltender Anton Forsberg’s left shoulder at even-strength. In the second, the Moose pushed their lead to 3-0 with back-to-back even-strength scores from Jansen Harkins at 0:53 and 1:10 of the frame before Cleveland Head Coach John Madden took his timeout.

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Madden’s decision was apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Monsters, who quickly tallied a power-play goal from Alex Broadhurst at 8:46 of the second, with Dean Kukan and Zac Dalpe posting assists on the play. Then, just over two minutes later, Kukan pulled Cleveland within a goal with a power-play tally of his own at 10:49, set up by Dalpe. The Monsters continued their ascent at 12:42, when a third-consecutive power-play goal, this time from T.J. Tynan, tied the game at three thanks to feeds from Vitaly Abramov and Ryan Craig. Cleveland then claimed their first edge of the contest by virtue of a Joe Pendenza even-strength marker, from Sonny Milano and Dalpe at 14:42 of the second, to make it 4-3 Monsters. Manitoba’s Kyle Connor leveled the score at 4-4, however, with a power-play strike at 19:06 of the middle frame.

In the third, Cleveland’s Markus Hannikainen tallied the game-winning goal at 8:34, his team-leading 19th of the campaign, thanks to deft even-strength helpers from Sam Vigneault and Abramov, and Forsberg slammed the door down the stretch, improving to 27-16-4 thanks to a 31-save performance. On the other side, Manitoba’s Eric Comrie delivered 24 stops in defeat to fall to 18-26-6 this year. Forsberg’s 26 victories are a single-season Monsters franchise record.

Next up for the Monsters, it’s a Friday rematch vs. the Moose in the final game of Cleveland’s regular-season schedule with full coverage, live from The Q, underway at 7:00 pm on 99X and the Monsters Hockey Network.