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Prospect Report: Monsters stay hot with second straight sweep

Goalies dominating as Cleveland runs win streak to four

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

This week's Prospects Report starts in Cleveland, where something good is in the water for the Cleveland Monsters. 

The AHL affiliate of the Blue Jackets is red hot, turning in its second straight perfect weekend with a sweep of visiting Charlotte. Cleveland downed the Checkers by a 2-1 score in overtime on Friday night at home, then came back two days later to complete the sweep with a 5-1 victory against the visitors. 

In all, Cleveland has moved to 7-3-0-1 on the season, though that's good only for fourth in a loaded North Division that features Toronto (7-0-2-1), Utica (8-2-0-0) and Rochester (7-3-1-1).  

The Monsters never trailed on the weekend. In the opening game, Dillon Simpson gave Cleveland the early lead with a goal 3:43 into the game, the Monsters' franchise-record 13th straight goal leading back to the previous weekend's sweep of Rockford. Charlotte came back to tie the score later in the first, and from there it was a defensive showdown with help from goalies Matiss Kivlenieks of the Monsters and Alex Nedeljkovic, a native of Parma just outside Cleveland, of the Checkers. 

The game went to overtime when Nathan Gerbe earned a penalty shot, and just like Gustav Nyquist a few weeks prior for the Blue Jackets, Gerbe scored to complete the win. Kivlenieks finished with 20 saves.

Tweet from @TheAHL: Is there anything Nathan Gerbe can't do? Gerbe gets the @monstershockey the win with a penalty shot goal in overtime!

Sunday, the Monsters pulled away, taking a 2-0 first-period lead and then scoring the final three goals to finish the 5-1 win. Doyle Somerby scored first for Cleveland before Simpson scored for the second time on the weekend. Andrew Peeke added a shorthanded breakaway goal before tallies from Paul Bittner and Justin Scott. Peeke and Bittner added assists while Veini Vehvilainen earned the win with 22 saves. 

"Obviously you want to play well on both sides of the puck," said Peeke, the rookie defenseman who was the team's final cut ahead of the start of the season. "I take care of the defensive side first, but it's always nice to chip in offensively." 

Gerbe now leads the team with a 3-6-9 line in 11 games, while Zac Dalpe is right behind with a 4-4-8 line and Scott has 3-5-8. The team also has been impressive in net, with Kivlenieks at 4-1-1/2.27/.913 and Vehvilainen at 3-2-0/2.02/.932.  

Also, Jakob Lilja, who played the first 13 games of the year with Columbus, reported to Cleveland ahead of Sunday's game and wore No. 14 for the Monsters. He finished plus-1 and had a shot on goal.  

In other Monsters personnel news, the team continues to be without forward Trey Fix-Wolansky, who is out with a lower-body injury. 

Marchenko's big goal: It's been an up and down season this year for 2018 Blue Jackets second-round pick Kirill Marchenko - literally. 

Down has been up in a way for the talented forward, as while playing with SKA St. Petersburg's second division team, SKA Neva, Marchenko has been fantastic. So far, the 19-year-old has registered nine goals and 13 points in 14 games. 

Things have been a little different when called up to the highest level, however, as Marchenko doesn't have a point in five games with the KHL club and has had five different games where he dressed but did not play. In all, he's averaging just 2:47 of ice time per game with SKA.  

But he got a big chance and took advantage of it Sunday. With the team taking on Dinamo Riga, SKA turned to Marchenko in a shootout and he scored the winner.  

You can see a highlight of his snipe past the goalie at the 44-second mark below. 

Tweet from @hcSKA: �������� �� ���������������� ����������, �������������� �������������� �������������� �� ���������������� - ��������������, ������ ������ ������������������ �� ����������������!

Prospect Notes 

♦ 2017 fifth-round pick Kale Howarth showcased an impressive one-timer for his UConn team in a win over the weekend against Merrimack. The 22-year-old Alberta native now has a 2-2-4 line in six games so far with the Huskies. 

Tweet from @UConnMHOC: First UConn power play of the season! Sophomore Kale Howarth with his second on the season, burying a one-time chance from Payusov and Freeman. #IceBus with a 1-0 lead

♦ Ohio State's Carson Meyer, a 2017 sixth-round pick of the Blue Jackets, got to watch his Buckeyes celebrate a home sweep of rival Michigan over the weekend that moved OSU to 6-1-1 on the young season. Unfortunately for Meyer, he missed the second game of the series with injury. So far, Meyer has a 2-3-5 line in seven games.  

♦ Tim Berni, a 2018 sixth-round pick, is showcasing a more offensive game this season with ZSC Lions over in his native Switzerland. Berni now has four goals and four assists for eight points in his country's top league over his first 19 games, matching his point total from last season. The 19-year-old also is plus-8 on the campaign. 

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