I-71 Report: Both Teams Look to Continue Early Success
Every October is a transaction-heavy month for the Cleveland Monsters and Columbus Blue Jackets. Between late September and early October, the Monsters saw 52 roster changes in total bringing a blend of rookie and veteran players to complete Cleveland’s 31-man roster.
Ten players and the Monsters coaching staff found themselves in Traverse City, Mich. this September competing in the annual NHL Prospect Camp for the Monsters' NHL affiliate Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets downed the host team, Detroit Red Wings, 7-3 to take the championship title for the fifth time in history. On this team, goalie Matiss Kivlenieks and forward Sam Vigneault stood out, ultimately carrying this momentum through training camp and to the Monsters' season-opening weekend.
Cleveland won both matchups with the Rockford IceHogs at home, followed by a 5-3 win against the defending Calder Cup Champions Toronto Marlies. Zac Dalpe led the way throughout these three games with a contribution of four goals, two assists and 10 shots on goal. Afterward, he acknowledged a change in the team.
"I think it's the mindset. Everyone's bought in this weekend. If you're at the practice rink, it's just a different feel around the rink. You hear the music going, you didn't hear that a lot last year. It's a good feeling in the dressing room," said Dalpe.
Newcomer Eric Robinson, who also found success in Traverse City, continued the trend by netting his first AHL goal on opening night. Robinson totaled three goals with two assists through the Monsters' first three games. Goalie Jean-Francois Berube, another new face to the current Monsters' roster, also stood strong between the pipes through the season's first three games, totaling 61 saves against 65 combined shots faced.
Since then the Monsters cooled down, dropping two games to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins before kicking off a two-week long road stretch, beginning Friday, Oct. 19.
"Before we go on the road (again), we get four great practices... so we'll get to work with things that we need to clean up, things we want to teach," Coach John Madden said Saturday, Oct. 13 following a loss to the Penguins. "We're going to get everyone up to speed and hit the road with a good mindset and good attitude."
The Columbus Blue Jackets started their season in a similar fashion to the Monsters. The Jackets spoiled the Detroit Red Wings home opener with an overtime dagger but then dropped the home opener the next night facing the Carolina Hurricanes. The team currently sits third in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 3-2-0.
Monsters hit the road later this week to take on the Utica Comets on Friday, Oct. 19 before heading to Binghamton to take on the Devils on Saturday, Oct. 20. All Monsters away games can be caught on 99.1FM or AHL TV.