By Eddie Graveline, Glovedropper.com
The NAHL Fresno Monsters entered Friday night's home game against the Kenai River Brown Bears in desperate need of a win. Time is running out for the Monsters to make a push for a playoff spot and, with Kenai sitting directly in front of them in the standings, it was as close to a must-win situation as you'll ever find.
The Monsters had hung with Kenai on Wednesday, but let the game slip away in the final five minutes. Unlike the previous effort, however, the Monsters struck early and controlled play for the entire first period. Riley Borer scored first after being set up by Mike Cox on his way into the zone. Borer slipped one right between the Kenai goalie's legs to give the Monsters their first lead of the week. Just over three minutes later, Willie Hess combined hard work with sheer speed to extend the lead. He intercepted a Kenai pass in the neutral zone, then out-skated two of their defenders and put a laser past the goalie. The Monsters finished the period with a really strong penalty kill and carried a lot of momentum into the locker room for the first intermission.
That momentum carried over and the Monsters scored just 39 seconds into the second period when D.J. Carnley picked up a loose puck right in the crease and put it in. Riley Borer assisted and picked up his second point of the game. 8:11 into the period, Willie Hess scored his second un-assisted goal of the game. This time it was a slap shot from the right boards as he flew deep into the Kenai zone. Kenai got their first of the game about three minutes later, then added another with 46 seconds left in the period. The Monsters held a 4-2 lead going into the final period of play, but needed to re-group in the locker room and come out swinging in the third.
It wasn't the barn burner that the first two periods were, but the Monsters looked good in the third. Matt Coleman scored on a power play at 11:26, while T.J. Powers and Mike Cox got assists. Kenai came back and got another at 16:25, but that was all they could muster. The Monsters held on to win 5-3 and gain a valuable couple of points on Kenai in the standings.
"We had a great effort tonight with a full sixty minutes of hockey," a pleased Head Coach Eric Ballard said after the game. "Our boys came out with intensity and never backed off. Goalie Luke Hernandez got his first start tonight and provided a huge win."
WSHL Monsters edge San Diego 4-3
The Monsters' WSHL team started a 3-game series with the San Diego Gulls on Friday afternoon at Selland Arena. The Gulls gave them a good amount of trouble, but once again, Don Coyle got things done on the score sheet. He had two goals, including the game-winner in the third period, plus an assist. Rob Kolander had a goal and an assist and Zach Alvarez also scored. Marcus Harbison was solid in the Monster net, turning away 23 of the 26 shots he faced. The Monsters outshot the Gulls 33-26 and will try to pick up another win Saturday afternoon at 3:30 at Selland.