By Eddie Graveline, Glovedropper.com
The NAHL Fresno Monsters started a 3-game home series withteh Kenai River Brown Bears at Selland Arena on Wednesday night. With the season well into its second half, this series was huge for obvious reasons. But beyond being in desparate need of points, Kenai (4th) sits directly ahead of the Monsters (5th) in the NAHL West Division standings. That fourth place position also happens to be the last playoff spot, so three consecutive games present the Monsters with an incredible oppportunity to make up ground very quickly.
The Monsters fell behind just 3:14 into the game. Goalie Tom Conlin made a good save, but one of the Kenai players was on the doorstep to get the rebound and put it around him. That was all the damage the Monsters allowed the Bears to inflict that period, but they weren't able to get on the board themselves. In fact, they were outshot 15-7 in the opening period, so adjustments were necessary.
For all intents and purposes, Kenai controlled most of the second period as well. They continued to outshoot the Monsters, but the momentum started to swing late in the period. Jeff Anderson got things going for the Monsters by scoring his first goal of the season at 17:02. Just moments after that, the Monsters ended up with a 5-on-3 power play for 1:37. They didn't convert, but cotrolled play for the remainder of the period and went into the second intermission with a great chance to win the game.
The Monsters took a penalty just seconds into the third period and Kenai promptly converted for another goal and re-took the lead. Five minutes later, Matt Coleman scored on a Monster power play to tie it back up. Mike Cox and Jordan Lovick assisted on the goal, which came after a nice scrum in front of the Kenai net. At exactly the 15:00 mark, Kenai scored again. The Monsters looked like they might have one more bit of magic in them, but couldn't get it done. Instead, Kenai scored on an empty net to make it 4-2 at the end of regulation.
It was another frustrating loss for fans, coaches and, I'm sure, the players as well. Tom Conlin was phenomenal in the Monster net once again, but there just wasn't enough offense in front of him. Kenai had 36 shots on net, while the Monsters were held to 22.
"Tonight's game was a tale of our season, so close, yet so far," Assistant Coach Mike Perkins said after the game. "We showed signs of offense, signs of defense and at times, we showed none of either. Our penalty kill was strong as usual, we got a power play goal, but we need to shore things up five-on-five if we want to win down the stretch."
That about sums it up. The WSHL and NAHL Monsters were both be in action at Selland Arena on Friday. The WSHL squad takes the ice at 3:30 PM against the San Diego Gulls, while the NAHL boys host Kenai again at 7:35.