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MONSTERS TOPPLE GRIFFINS

Cleveland Monsters 4 at GRIFFINS 0

April 8, 2017


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Brad Thiessen stopped all 31 shots he faced and Sonny Milano added a pair of goals as the Cleveland Monsters defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-0 on Saturday night in front of 10,009 at Van Andel Arena.

Grand Rapids’ loss, coupled with Chicago’s overtime win against Iowa tonight, moves the Griffins out of the Central Division lead for the first time since Jan. 7. The Griffins (44-23-1-4) trail Chicago by one point with four games to play and lead third-place Milwaukee by five points.

The Monsters (37-28-4-4), who now have points in 11 of their last 12, still shadow Charlotte for the division’s fourth and final playoff spot by a mere 0.001 percentage point.

The Griffins and Monsters will rematch tomorrow evening and conclude their 12-game regular season series. Puck drop from Quicken Loans Arena is set for 5 p.m.

For the sixth straight game, the Griffins were skating without some key cogs in their lineup due to either being on recall in Detroit or injured. Tonight, Grand Rapids was minus five of its top nine scorers and its second-leading defenseman, which equated to 40-percent of the team’s point total entering the game.   

Despite not allowing a Cleveland shot on goal until eight minutes had elapsed in the first period, the Griffins went into the initial intermission trailing 1-0.

Fifteen seconds into a 4-on-4, Dean Kukan, Markus Hannikainen and Joe Pendenza entered the offensive zone on a 3-on-2. Skating up the left side, Kukan spun to his backhand and dropped a pass to Hannikainen at the top of the left circle. Pendenza took the feed from Hannikainen at the right circle and walked in alone before lifting a left-handed shot inside the near post at 15:11.

Cleveland added to its lead 2:40 into the middle frame as Sonny Milano potted his first of two goals on the night. Sam Vigneault corralled Hannikainen’s pass as he reached the right goal line and centered a pass toward the blue paint. Milano gathered the pass that eluded a Griffins stick and popped the puck past Jared Coreau.

The Griffins nearly cut the deficit in half with 11:27 to play in the second. Evgeny Svechnikov tried to reach Martin Frk on a backdoor pass, but Thiessen slid right to left to deny the opportunity.

Cleveland scored its third goal on its ninth shot of the evening with 9:40 remaining in the second period. Milano collected a loose puck on the left wall and quickly slid it over to Hannikainen in the slot for a one-timer.

The Monsters scored their fourth and final goal of the night with 5:05 remaining in the middle period. Milano notched his second of the night, this time capitalizing on the power play. Cleveland finished 1 for 5 on the man advantage while the Griffins were not able to convert on four chances.

Coreau stopped 9-of-13 shots through two periods before Eddie Pasquale made eight saves in third-period relief duty.

Thiessen, who now has two consecutive shutouts and just one goal allowed in his last three starts, kept the clean sheet intact by stopping all 10 of Grand Rapids’ attempts in the final frame.

Notes: The Griffins, in partnership with Michigan Office Solutions and Meijer, held a Wish List Drive to benefit Kids’ Food Basket in West Michigan prior to the game…Cleveland earned its first regulation win at Van Andel Arena for the first time since April 13, 2016...Grand Rapids was shut out at home for the first time since Jan. 27, 2016 versus Toronto...Matt Lorito became the 165th Griffins alumnus to play in the NHL when he debuted with the Red Wings tonight…Axel Holmstrom skated in his third career AHL game tonight and first at Van Andel Arena.
 
Three Stars: 1. CLE Thiessen (W, 31 saves, SO) 2. CLE Milano (two goals, assist) 3. CLE Hannikainen (goal, two assists)