I-71 Report: Monsters Cheer on CBJ as they March On
The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Cleveland Monsters’ NHL Affiliate, clinched playoff berth in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 5 to make it the first time in franchise history the team has made back-to-back playoff appearances. The Jackets faced the Washington Capitals on the road in the first two games of Round 1, which began April 12.
Through two seasons riddled with injuries, the Columbus Blue Jackets relied on familiar faces from the Cleveland Monsters roster.
Most recently, center Alex Broadhurst made his Blue Jackets debut against the Detroit Redwings at Nationwide Arena on April 3.
This season, Markus Hannikainen has been no stranger to I-71. The leftwing made eight appearances for the Monsters through four different months. Hannikainen tallied 0-3-3 with 20 shots. With the Jackets, he tallied 3-3-6 with 31 shots and six penalty minutes in 33 games.
Sonny Milano has also spent time in both cities. He tallied 2-3-5 with 17 shots and four penalty minutes in the nine appearances he made with the Monsters. In Columbus, the leftwing supplied 14-8-22 with 69 shots and 10 penalty minutes.
Most notably, Cleveland faced injury problems between the pipes this season. Joonas Koripsalo helped fill the position when needed by contributing a total of 479 minutes in eight appearances for the Monsters, making 218 saves with a 0.924 save percentage. Korpisalo saw ice time in 18 games with Columbus this season with 564 shots against and a .897 save percentage. He tallied eight wins, eight losses and an overtime loss with the Jackets.
As the AHL season comes to close, many young players are getting their shot at amateur and professional tryout agreements throughout the league. There is no shortage of new, young players in Cleveland, with the two most notable of the bunch being Spencer Naas and Grant Besse.
Spencer Naas came to the Monsters after four seasons with the University of Connecticut. The forward contributed 49-28-77 with 71 penalty minutes with a +1 rating in his 143 career collegiate appearances with the Huskies. In his short time with the Monsters, he made his presence felt. Naas scored his first pro goal in his first pro game and tallied 2-3-5 with 21 shots in nine total appearances with the Monsters. Naas spoke to Tony Brown prior to his professional debut, describing his approach to this late-season tryout contract.
“It’s definitely very fast [in the AHL] and the defensemen really close time and space quickly, but my teammates have done a great job of welcoming me and helping me feel comfortable,” explained Naas. “That has certainly helped me relax and focus on playing my game and helping the team any way I can.”
Additionally, Grant Besse made his way to Cleveland from the ECHL’s Norfolk Admirals where he put up 30-32-62 with 26 penalty minutes and a -3 rating in 62 games. The leftwing signed a 25-game professional tryout contract with Cleveland in March, seeing ice time in eight games and tallying 1-4-5 with 19 shots and a +4 rating with the Monsters.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have won the first two games of Round 1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, posting two overtime wins against the Washington Capitals. The team returns home to Columbus for Games 3 and 4 on April 17 and April 19, respectively.
Join Cleveland in supporting the Blue Jackets and Monsters alum such as Alex Broadhurst, Markus Hannikainen and Joonas Korpisalo as the team looks to continue post-season success and reach Round 2 for the first time in franchise history. The Monsters join fans to watch Game 4 at Saucy Brew Works on Thursday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m.
While the Blue Jackets reached post-season hockey, the Monsters’ season ended Saturday, April 14 after a road matchup against Grand Rapids. Cleveland recently announced the 2018-19 home opener, with a matchup scheduled for Oct. 5. Tickets are now on sale for this game only and can be purchased here: https://www.clevelandmonsters.com/summer-pack.