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Monsters open final series of NAHL season with dramatic 4-3 shootout win

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By Eddie Graveline, Glovedropper.com

This part of the year always seems to sneak up on us, but sure enough, the Fresno Monsters' final series of the 2010-11 season got underway Friday night at Selland Arena. The Monsters no longer had a chance to make playoffs, but you would have to believe that they wanted to go out on a positive note in front of their home fans.

It didn't seem that way in the first period. The Monsters came out flat and got dominated. Wichita Falls scored 11:45 into the period on a rush. They followed that up with a power play goal at 17:39 to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. The Monsters were outshot 7-16 in the opening 20 minutes and had it not been for some great saves by goalie Tom Conlin, the score could have been uglier.

What a difference 15 minutes makes! The Monsters came out looking much more focused and determined to get the game under control in the second period. T.J. Powers scored 1:19 into the period on a play set up by D.J. Carnley and Lucas Whelan. They came back just a few seconds later to score at 1:55. That time it was Riley Borer, but Powers picked up an assist for a great feed to Borer in the crease, along with Brett Blomgren. Garrett Orhn scored at 9:20 on a power play that came after the Wildcats got caught with too many men on the ice. Unfortunately, the Wildcats tied the game back up with 50 seconds left in the period, but it was a much better stretch of hockey for the Monsters.

The game got a lot chippier in the third period. There were quite a few scuffles after whistles and several penalties. Through it all, neither team was able to score. The went into a five-minute overtime and that was scoreless as well. At the end of overtime, Shots on goal were 40-34 in favor of Wichita Falls, but the Monsters had closed the big gap that opened earlier in the game.
They were playing pretty well in the later stages, but everyone knows that just about anything can happen in a shootout.

Tom Conlin stopped three of the five Wildcats that he faced in the shootout. The two that did score had over-the-top celebrations that got the Selland Arena crowd even more riled up. Thomas Freeman scored a spectacular goal on his attempt and Johan Bjorklund was able to put one in as well. It all came down to the final shooter, Jordan Lovick. He took the puck right down the middle toward the Wichita net, deked a couple of times and got the goalie to drop. He pulled the puck wide and put it right into an open net. Needless to say, the crowd went absolutely insane as the Monsters won in about as dramatic a fashion as possible.

After probably spending the previous couple of hours pulling his hair out, Coach Eric Ballard was pretty happy with his team. "After the first twenty minutes, the guys really responded," he said. "They played hard, got back in the game and made it happen. I'm really happy for our team, because they need wins like this in front of their home crowd."

Saturday night presents Fresno area hockey fans with their last opportunity to cheer the Monsters on this season. They'll host Wichita Falls in the final game of the year at 7:35 PM at Selland Arena. It's a "Pack the House" night, so be sure to get out there and lend your support.

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