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Monsters down Crunch to advance to second round of AHL playoffs

Columbus' top affiliate posts 3-1 win in series to move on

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

For at least one season, the Columbus organization got the better of the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

First, the Blue Jackets downed the Bolts by a 4-0 margin in their first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Then, on Thursday night in Cleveland, the Jackets' top affiliate, the AHL's Cleveland Monsters, finished up a 3-1 series win over Tampa Bay's farm team, the Syracuse Crunch, in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

"It was extremely nice to finish it off in front of the home crowd here," Monsters head coach John Madden said after the Game 4 win.

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Both were on-paper upsets, as Tampa Bay tied the NHL wins record with 62 on the season while the Crunch finished 18 points ahead of the Monsters in the AHL North Division. Yet games aren't played on paper, and Columbus and Cleveland finished playoff series with the edge. 

Here's a look back at how the Monsters did it. 

Results 

Game 1: 5-3 win at Syracuse on April 19: Cleveland showed no hesitancy in taking the opener, outshooting the Crunch 28-19 and taking the win. After Mark Letestu and Ryan MacInnis scored, Syracuse knotted the game early in the third before Kevin Stenlund broke the tie with 6:51 to go and give Cleveland the lead for good. Zac Dalpe added another less than a minute later and Dillon Simpson scored an empty-netter. Brad Thiessen made 16 saves while 11 different Monsters got on the scoresheet. 

Game 2: 5-1 win at Syracuse on April 20: The Monsters again took it to the Crunch, boasting a 32-19 edge in shots and pulling away to the win. For the second game in a row, Cleveland never trailed, as Justin Scott scored first. The Crunch tied it in the second, but Dan DeSalvo got the game winner at 17:15 of the period. Letestu, Sonny Milano and Derek Barach added goals in the third, while Thiessen made 18 saves. Milano had a three-point night with his two assists, while Gabriel Carlsson also had a pair of helpers. 

Game 3: 2-1 loss to Syracuse on April 23: The Monsters returned home to play in front of nearly 10,000 fans, but Syracuse took a 2-0 lead and held on. Scott scored with 7:13 to play to cut into the Crunch's 2-0 lead, but Cleveland could not level the score despite an 18-7 edge in shots in the third. Thiessen made 25 saves. 

Game 4: 3-0 win vs. Syracuse on April 25: This time, the home crowd got to celebrate as 2018 first-round draft pick Liam Foudy staged his coming-out party in the series clincher. Foudy scored the game winner with his opening goal in the first period and later added a second tally for his first two pro goals after spending most of this year with London of the OHL. Alex Broadhurst also scored and Milano added two assists, while Thiessen made 38 saves in the shutout victory. 

Notes 

Cleveland got varied scoring throughout the first round, as 16 different players had at least a point and 11 tallied at least one goal. Milano led all scorers with a 1-5-6 line while Foudy, Letestu and Scott each had two goals to lead the way. 

Thiessen, known as the Brick Wall, had a big series in net. The veteran allowed just six goals in the four games, posting a 1.52 goals-against average and .942 save percentage.  

Foudy, the CBJ's most recent first-round pick, had 38 goals this season while playing for London of the OHL. The 19-year-old also had six goals and 12 points in 11 OHL playoff games. "He's skilled, (has) speed," Madden said after Game 4. "When you haven't played in a system of ours and with the guys, it's kind of hard to make the jump. But I saw some stuff out of him last game I really liked, so I gave him a chance to play on Dalps' line and he performed." 

Every Monsters player to play in the series finished with a plus rating, led by Letestu at plus-7 and Milano at plus-6. Defenseman Tommy Cross was plus-5 while fellow blueliners Carlsson, Ryan Collins and Doyle Somerby were all plus-4.  

The Monsters are still without injured captain Nathan Gerbe and starting goaltender Jean-Francois Berube.  

Going back to the regular season, Cleveland is on a 16-7-3 run. 

Up Next 

Cleveland will take on Toronto in the second round in a seven-game series. Game 1 will be May 1 in Toronto, with the series shifting to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4 on May 5 and May 7. Should a Game 6 be needed in the Land, it will be May 13.  

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