The Lake Erie Monsters went up against an old friend turned foe in Wyatt Smith and the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday night at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland Ohio. Smith, the team captain of last years’ Monster squad, was signed by the Tampa Bay Lightening, parent of the Norfolk Admirals immediately after the season ended last year. While he wasn’t the primary cause for Norfolk handing the Monsters their first loss of the year, a 4-2 defeat, it was disconcerting to see the veteran playing in another teams’ colors.
The Monsters started the night tied for first place with a 2-0 record. Going into the evening, their power play penalty killing was a perfect 12-for-12. While it would be nicer seeing Lake Erie cut down on penalties, to date they haven’t been hurt being short-handed. That would change in this one.
The Norfolk Admirals, a non-conference match-up came into the game 0-1-0-1, sporting a loss and an overtime loss on the season. They leave Cleveland 1-1-0-1.
When questioned about the early goal scoring from the opposition in each of this years’ games Coach Sacco commented “I think its focus and preparation. We have to come out with a better start”.
Lake Erie did get a quick early goal from Brian Willsie but the real culprit was a Norfolk defenseman trying to play the puck back to net minder Karri Romo, and shooting it by him for a lucky Monster goal.
It didn’t take long for Norfolk to answer. Paul Szczechura score an unassisted power play goal 58 seconds later after Monsters defenseman Darcy Campbell was sent off the ice for holding. The goal was the first power play goal allowed by the Monsters this year.
If the scoring continued at this torrid of a pace, this one was going to end more like a football contest than a hockey game. The net-to-net full ice action persisted and both teams registered chances.
Things slowed down a bit until the Monsters’ Tom Frische took an interference call with 9:29 left in the first, the crowd hoping the Monster penalty kill could get back on track. It did, and immediately thereafter, the Monsters scored, but the goal was nullified by a questionable T.J. Hensick high stick that knocked the puck down and back to himself just before he scored.
The Monsters got their first attempt at a power play fifteen minutes in after Norfolk right winger Chirs Lawence was called for a pretty hefty elbowing called that leveled a Monster right in front of the ref. While the power play was in vain, the Monster’s got another one exactly two minutes prior to the end of the first on a trip from Ty Wishart. Again, though it did not matter. While the Monsters have been great on killing penalties, they’d been just as bad at scoring when they are a man up.
At the end of one, shots on goal favored the Monsters 13-9.
While the second period featured a ton of hitting, primarily with the Monsters on the fore check, it was the Admirals that headed to the locker room with a 2-1 lead. Radek Smolenak scored his first of the night almost three quarters of the way through the second, with assists by Szczechura and Brandon Segal.
Admirals’ Zenon Kenopka and Monsters’ Jesse Boulerice squared off in the first fight of the night, Boulerice getting the better of that exchange. Boulerice is quickly assuming the role of enforcer played by last year’s fighter Mitch Love who is no longer on the team. This was Boulerice’s third altercation of the young season.
The Monsters opened the third period scoring 4:50 in, tying up the game at 2-2. That lead was short-lived, as it took less than two minutes for Norfolk to bump the score to 3-2 on Szczecura’s second of the night.
The Admirals extended the lead to 4-2 on an unassisted goal by Brandon Bochenski. This one came right after a successful Norfolk penalty kill, something that seems to be somewhat of an issue so far this year for the Monsters – that being giving up goals right after a power play and right after scoring.
That was the way it ended, and the Monsters suffered their first loss of the season 4-2.
Mostly, Lake Erie played pretty evenly against the Norfolk squad, but were stymied by a great goal-tending effort on the part of Norfolk’s Ramo. As Coach Sacco said “Some nights that happens”.
The Political bobble head night giveaway had Monsters fans choosing Obama 59% to 41 % over John McCain. Both candidates looked pretty good in a Monsters Hockey Jersey.
The Monsters won’t get much sleep before playing their second meeting of the year against the Grand Rapids Griffins tomorrow afternoon at the “Q”. Game time is 1:00.
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