By Eddie Graveline, Glovedropper.com
After a rare weekend off and some much needed rest, the NAHL Fresno Monsters began their penultimate home series of the 2010-11 season with a game against the Dawson Creek Rage on Wednesday night. The Monsters are still technically in the hunt for a playoff spot in their first season, but there's no denying the importance of every available point from here on out, so the team knew they needed to get out there and earn it.
They looked pretty comfortable in the first period. As usual, there were a few turnovers and penalties, but the Monsters scored first when Steven Obrazanek potted one 9:02 into the game. Riley Borer and Garrett Orhn assisted on the goal. The Rage evened things up at 13:22, but the Monsters outshot them 7-5 in the period and were definitely in the game.
It seemed like momentum was swinging the Monsters' way in the second period. They continued to get the bulk of the scoring chances and Willie Hess repeatedly broke away from defenders and got shots on goal. But a string of penalties later in the period took their toll. The Monsters killed a couple, including a 5-on-3, but the Rage finally buried one at 16:23. Fair or not, they had the lead, but the Monsters continued to work hard once they got back to full strength. The last shift of the period produced several shots on the Rage net and finally, with 8 seconds left, Obrazanek put his second one of the night past Dawson Creek's goalie. This time it was Matt Coleman and Riley Borer picking up the assists. Obviously, tying the game right before intermission was huge for the Monsters and the Selland Arena crowd was just hoping they could carry the momentum into the final twenty minutes.
It started rough, with Dawson Creek scoring 46 seconds into the period, but the Monsters bounced back when Riley Borer scored on a delayed penalty at 2:50. Borer had drawn the penalty, but got back up an was fed a great pass from Mike Cox in the high slot and he placed it short side, top shelf to make it an even game again. Obrazanek completed his hat trick on a power play at 6:59. Orhn picked up another assist on that one. After that, things got a little messy. The Monsters started getting called for a bunch of penalties. Dawson's skaters were going down like soccer players, but it was working for them. They got a lot of calls, but Tom Conlin was working hard in the Monster net and the guys in front of him were trying not to let too many shots get to him. It looked like things might take an even better turn when Derek Sutliffe was awarded a penalty shot after being tripped on a break-away. He just missed on the attempt, though, and the team went back to killing a penalty. Stay short-handed long enough and it's going to get you. With a 5-on-3 advantage, the Rage scored at 15:40 to tie the game 4-4, which is where it stayed until the end of regulation.
The Monsters had taken another penalty just before the end of regulation, so they started overtime short-handed. That proved to be their undoing, as the Rage's Dakota Mason scored his second goal of the game 56 seconds in. That was it for the Monsters in a game that they not only could have, but should have won.
"There are only so many times you can kill penalties," a frustrated Coach Eric Ballard said afterward. "We had nine to their five and we were down five on three twice. I hate to keep bringing up officiating, but it was a factor. The bottom line, though, is that we have to tighten it up."
The NAHL Monsters host Dawson Creek again at 7:35 Friday night, while the WSHL Monsters will host the Bakersfield Condors at 3:30 PM Friday afternoon.