A look at the past week for the Cleveland Monsters, the top AHL farm team of the Columbus Blue Jackets, who took three of four points in two games to remain in the thick of the playoff race. Cleveland now has seven games left and is one point out of a playoff spot with a game in hand.
March 29: 6-3 win vs. Lehigh Valley: Cleveland put on a show in front of more than 10,000 fans, downing the visiting Phantoms behind a hat trick from Zac Dalpe. Dalpe scored the team's first three goals, including a tally in the second period that made it 3-2 and gave the Monsters the lead for good. Kevin Stenlund, Derek Barach and Brett Gallant added tallies. Dalpe finished with four points while Adam Clendening had three assists before being called up to Columbus after the game. Brad Thiessen made 26 saves in net.
March 30: 3-2 shootout loss to Lehigh Valley: In a much more defensive battle than the night before, Cleveland and Lehigh Valley played to a 2-2 tie before the Phantoms won the skills competition in front of 12,544 fans. The Monsters fell into a 2-0 hole before Dalpe scored his 30th goal of the year, then Ryan MacInnis' goal early in the third made it a 2-2 game. Thiessen made 20 saves but gave up one goal in the shootout, while Dalpe, Mark Letestu and Alexandre Texier were denied.
Dalpe's four-goal weekend, which earned him AHL player of the week honors, gave him tallies in six consecutive games. The former Ohio State star is in the midst of an eight-game point streak (6-6-12) and has 15 goals and six assists in his last 15 games. On the year, he has 30 goals in just 48 AHL games to tie a franchise record and is tied for fourth in the league in tallies.
Clendening was called up to Columbus after the Friday game in which he had three helpers. That gave him a season-high three points, but it was the eighth multi-point game of the year for the defenseman. He's also plus-7 in his last eight AHL games.
Letestu was held without a point in the second game of the series, just the third time in the last 15 games he didn't get on the score sheet. In that span, he has six goals and 12 assists.
The Monsters continue to be without injured forwards Nathan Gerbe, Alex Broadhurst, and Sonny Milano, but forwards Paul Bittner and Calvin Thurkauf returned from long injury layoffs. Bittner, 22, was the team's second-round pick in 2015 who has a career-best 9-20-29 line in 46 games. Thurkauf, 21, is a 2016 seventh-round pick from Switzerland who has played in just 19 games this season.
Defenseman Doyle Somerby continues to be strong on the defensive end, as he is plus-9 in the last nine games.
Texier, a second-round pick in 2017 who had three goals in his first four AHL games after coming over from Finland, was kept off the score sheet by the Phantoms.
Cleveland is now 10-3-2 in its last 15 games and has points in seven in a row.
The AHL's playoff primer updates where each team stands down the stretch along with schedules and more in a posting updated daily. It can be accessed here.
Team leaders through 69 games
Points: Zac Dalpe 50, Mark Letestu 44, Adam Clendening 35, Tommy Cross 33, Nathan Gerbe 32
Goals: Zac Dalpe 30, Mark Letestu 19, Kole Sherwood 16, Kevin Stenlund 14, Justin Scott 12, Eric Robinson 12 (with CBJ), Vitaly Abramov 12 (traded)
Assists: Adam Clendening 31, Tommy Cross 26, Mark Letestu 25, Nathan Gerbe 22, Alex Broadhurst 21, Paul Bittner 20
Cleveland (35-26-7-2) entered the weekend tied with Belleville, but the B-Sens won both weekend games, moving them a point ahead of the Monsters. Cleveland, however, retains a game in hand as the two teams battle for the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. The teams will meet Saturday in Belleville.
Wednesday, April 3 at Laval, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 5 at Laval, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 6 at Belleville, 7 p.m.