By Eddie Graveline, Glovedropper.com
Friday brought central valley hockey fans another double header of Monster action. The NAHL team wrapped up a 2-game home series with Wenatchee, while the WSHL team hosted the defending league champions, the Phoenix Polar Bears. Both teams were looking for big wins over highy rated division rivals, and the NAHL team was especially hungry after suffering an embarrassing 6-0 defeat the night before.
From the outset, it was clear that the NAHL team showed up with a lot more fire than they had on Thursday night. They were skating a lot harder and, because of that, putting more pressure on Wenatchee. The Wild took a 1-0 lead in the first period, but it was more bad luck than bad play for the Monsters. One of the Wenatchee players tried to center the puck from behind the Monster net and it ended up going off of a Monster player's stick and right into the net past an unsuspecting Tom Conlin.
Conlin continued to backstop the Monsters' effort with solid play in net throughout the second period. He made several big saves that kept the game close. The Monsters rewarded his effort by scoring 5:19 into the period and bringing it back even. Jordan Lovick knocked it in, while Lucas Whelan got the assist. The Monsters came close a few more times in the period, but they entered the second intermission still tied 1-1.
The Monsters didn't lose any steam during the intermission and came out pressing in the third period. Derek Sutliffe scored from right in front of the net 8:14 into the period on a play set up by Ethan Scherer and Thomas Freeman. It was a good, hard-work goal and proved to be the game-winner. Wenatchee pushed hard, but Conlin continued to make good saves and the Monsters back-checked and blocked shots in front of him. Jeff Anderson deserves some big props for laying down in front of a big point shot, sacrificing his body to preserve the lead. At the end, the Monsters outshot Wenatchee 26-21.
For obvious reasons, the coaches' room was a much more relaxed and upbeat place after the game. "We had a great response after last night's loss," Head Coach Eric Ballard said. "This shows that if we play a full sixty minutes of hockey, we can beat any team in this league."
WSHL Monsters fall 4-1 to Phoenix
The Monsters' WSHL team faced a very tough opponent in the Phoenix Polar Bears on Friday afternoon. Phoenix is a notoriously slow starting team, but they typically add personnel and start playing very solid hockey after the new year. That certainly seems to be the case again this year, as the Polar Bears picked up a big road win. It wasn't for lack of effort on the Monsters' parts. They out-shot Phoenix 37-28, but Jason Beisinger was the only Fresno player able to put one in the back of the net. The good news for the WSHL team is that they have two more games against Phoenix this weekend. They play at 4:30 PM Saturday and 10 AM Sunday at Gateway Ice Center.