November 25, 2016 – Grand Rapids, Michigan – There was no doubt that by the end of the 2nd period of Friday nights contest between AHL Central Division rivals Grand Rapids Griffins (@grgriffins) and Cleveland Monsters (@monstershockey) that Griffins fans felt doomed. With a three-point lead entering the 3rd period, Monsters goalie Anton Forsberg was looking like an impenetrable brick wall. No matter what the Griffins threw at him, he knocked it away. The score, 0 – 3, reflected that strength. In fact, it was the night of the Griffins annual “Teddy Bear Toss” for the Kent County Hug-A-Bear Foundation where fans bring teddy bears to donate and let them rain down upon the ice after the Griffins first goal of the game. But there had been no first goal. Fans were mumbling, “what do we do with our bears if they never score a goal tonight?”
The first period of the game was a non-event. Both goalies looked solid and neither team was able to put a puck in the net. Despite one penalty call on the Griffins Nick Jensen for holding and another two on the Monsters Paul Bittner for hooking and Brett Gallant for delay of game, the power plays made no difference in the balance of power or score.
The 2nd period belonged entirely to the Monsters, however. Hitting the ice more aggressively than in the previous period, Brett Gallant racked up his second penalty of the night at 4:58 for tripping, but the Griffins weren’t able to capitalize on the Monsters lack of a man. Surging with adrenaline only 22 seconds out of the penalty box however, Brett Gallant finally moved the board to Cleveland’s favor when he landed the first goal of the night (Assists: Palushaj, Sifers). Not quite seven minutes later at 14:12 Oliver Bjorkstrand (Assists: Maletta, Heatherington) lit the lamp again for the Monsters and three minutes after that had a repeat performance at 17:24, this time assisted by Sonny Milano and Joe Pendenza. A pair of cross-penalties by Cleveland’s Cody Goloubef for cross-checking and Grand Rapids Mathew Ford for high-sticking at 18:07 saw each team end the period down a man but still evenly matched.
The 3rd period opened with a still energetic but concerned Griffins fan base. Forsberg had been solid against the Griffins offense and the Monsters has clearly dominated the scoring thus far. Then, unexpectedly the “wall” that had been Forsberg started to crack, then crumble, and then it fell apart altogether. The Griffins Brian Lashoff (Assists: Criscuolo, Ford) launched the first offensive at 3:08, getting the puck around Forsberg and rippling the net for the Griffins for the first time. Thousands of teddy bears and other stuffed animals, large and small, rained down upon the ice. It was a light-hearted moment that even players on both sides seemed to enjoy as they skated through the toys and used their sticks to flick the little stuffed critters up into the boxes that the ice crew had brought out to collect them in. As soon as the ice was clear the game resumed.
Was it the culmination of two lackluster periods? Was it the inspiration of the first goal, the fans and the teddy bear toss? Who knows, but the Griffins seemed to be energized like at no time in the previous periods. They showed that newfound energy again in only a minute and forty-six seconds when at 4:54 Martin Frk (Assists: Renouf, Russo) landed another goal and put the Griffins down by one. The Monster’s Dillon Heatherington then made the regretful choice of deciding to argue with the officials after being called for interference at 6:49, leading to an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and landing him in the penalty box for four minutes. It was that second two minutes that hurt his team, because with only 21 seconds left in the four minute power play, Kyle Criscuolo (Assists: Jurco, Ford) tied the score at 3.
The Griffins were rejuvenated and for the first time of the night, with a tied score, the Monster’s were on the defensive as their comfortable lead had slipped away. At 13:08, Grand Rapids Tomas Nosek was called for 2:00 for slashing but the Griffins and their goalie, Eddie Pasquale held strong. At 17:13, the Monsters Sheldon Brookbank was called out for roughing, once again placing the Griffins on a power play. Five seconds later, at 17:18, Tomas Nosek (Assist: Street) wrangled the puck past Forsberg and the Griffins had the lead for the first time of the night.
With 1:03 left in the final period and the Griffins now up by one, Monsters coach John Madden pulled Forsberg for the extra man. At 19:02, Mitch Callahan was able to get his blade on a rebounded puck that had nearly tied the game for Cleveland and sent it down the ice to clear it from the Grand Rapids zone. Intentionally aimed or not, the puck traveled the length of the ice and slid quietly, and uncontested, into the empty net of the Monsters. One last penalty at the end of the game for Cleveland, this time a ten-minute major against Cody Goloubef for abuse of officials, had no bearing on the game and the Griffins won after an amazing five goal third period.
November 26, 2016 – Cleveland Ohio – The second night of the weekend series saw Cleveland back on their home ice, no doubt still stinging from the previous nights 3rd period loss stunner to the Griffins in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids Martin Frk (Assists: Lorito, Nosek) landed the first goal of the night at 12:05 on a power play after Cleveland’s Jaime Sifers was called for interference at 11:07. Just shy of two minutes later Tomas Nosek (Assist: Russo) took the Griffins up by two, getting another shot past Joonas Korpisalo at 13:53. An interference penalty against Dan Renouf at 19:09 put the Monsters on the power play and unlike that night before, they were able to make good on the extra man this time and Oliver Bjorkstrand (Assists: Ramage, Zaar) found the back of the net at 19:28 to get the Monsters on the board for the first time in the night.
Cleveland entered the 2nd period strong and tied the game 2-2 on a goal by Brett Gallant (Assists: Zaar, Maletta) at 4:02. A penalty against Cleveland at 6:36 for too many men on the ice went unanswered, as did a Griffins double minor penalty on Matthew Ford for high-sticking. At 12:34, Griffins Colin Campbell grabbed 2:00 for slashing, yet even shorthanded, Grand Rapids managed to find a hole in the Monsters defense at 13:03 and recaptured the lead on a goal from Matthew Ford (Assist: Street). Finally, at 16:55, the Griffins widened that lead yet again with another goal from Kyle Criscuolo (Assists: Lashoff, Jensen).
The 3rd period opened with the previous nights game undoubtedly on everyone’s mind; the 3rd period 5-goal comeback by Grand Rapids to defeat the three goal lead the Monsters had. If Cleveland had such a triumph in mind, it was not to be.
Neither team was able to capitalize on the other for the first three-quarters of the final period. Neither team was even called for a penalty. Then, at 14:44 Dominic Turgeon (Assists: Ford, Criscuolo) notched another one for the Griffins, taking Grand Rapids up by two. The first penalty of the period was called on Cleveland’s Aaron Palushaj at 15:33 for tripping, giving the Griffins the one-man advantage. It was an advantage that Grand Rapids would use. At 17:02 Matt Lorito (Assists: Nosek, Russo) gave the scorekeeper one last reason to change the numbers, and the Griffins took a healthy 6-2 lead over the Monsters; and the tension began to show. At 19:05 Jacob graves went to the
Monsters penalty box for cross-checking. It was 27 seconds later that things really fell apart, at least as far as composure. The “scrum” that occurred at 19:32 made no difference in the final outcome of the game, but it did show the frustrations that were now plaguing the hockey boys of the Buckeye state. When it was all cleaned up, the Griffins Dan Renouf was charged 2:00 for roughing and 5:00 for fighting; Cleveland’s Brett Gallant caught 2:00 for roughing, a 5:00 major for charging the goaltender, as well as a 10:00 game misconduct for charging. Jordan Maletta of the Monsters was given 5:00 for fighting, and Oleg Yevenko received a 10:00 game misconduct.
While the hockey fans may have had the greatest excitement of the game in those last 28 seconds, no doubt the Griffins were happy to hold on to the number two spot in the AHL Central Division at 11-6-0-0 while the Monsters wallow at the bottom of the division at 6-10-1-1.