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Monsters Monday: Cleveland holds playoff spot going into final week

AHL team has one-point lead, game in hand with four games to play

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

A look down on the farm at the Blue Jackets' top minor league team, the Cleveland Monsters, who enter the last week of the AHL season a point ahead in the battle for the last playoff spot in the North Division. 


April 3: 5-0 win at Laval: Cleveland outshot the Rocket 30-20 and had little trouble finishing off the victory that extended the Monsters' point streak to eight games. Alexandre Texier scored the first two goals of the game in the first and second period before Gabriel Carlsson, Derek Barach and Kevin Stenlund added goals. Brad Thiessen made all 20 stops in net.

April 5: 3-2 win at Laval: The Monsters kept the point streak going with a comeback win over the Rocket. After Laval took a 2-0 lead, Barack and Dalpe each scored late in the second period to tie the score, then Barach's goal with 2:38 to play was the difference. Thiessen made 14 saves.

April 6: 3-1 loss at Belleville: The team chasing the Monsters in the standings earned a win that drew them within one point of the Monsters going into the final week of the season. Former Monsters forward Vitaly Abramov scored the opening goal and the B-Sens led 2-0 after one, but Dalpe countered with a power-play goal off feeds from Mark Letestu and Paul Bittner in the second. Cleveland couldn't get the tying goal, though, and Belleville clinched it late. Thiessen had 18 saves.

Tweet from @monstershockey: 🗣 MAMA THERE GOES THAT MAN... AGAIN@ZacDalpe22 with #JACKpot 32 of the year, nbd


In the midst of a career year, Dalpe saw his streak of goals in six straight games end in the opening game of the week at Laval but then tallied in the next two games to get to 32 goals on the year. He one behind the AHL leaders despite playing just 51 games this season at that level. The former Ohio State star has points in 11 straight games (8-7-15) and has 17 goals and seven assists in the last 18 games. 

The Monsters played the first Laval game with Texier and Clendening, but both joined the Blue Jackets for the weekend games at New York and Ottawa. Clendening is plus-8 in his last nine AHL games and has four points in his last two games at the level, while Texier had five goals and two assists in seven games with the Monsters before being called up.

Letestu had two assists over the weekend and has a 6-14-20 line in his last 18 games down the stretch. He has points in 14 of 18 games.

The Monsters continue to be without injured forwards Nathan Gerbe, Alex Broadhurst, and Sonny Milano as well as starting goaltender Jean-Francois Labbe. Bittner had two assists in the three-game week after returning from a long injury layoff the week prior.

Barach, a forward signed in mid-March after completing season with Mercyhurst University, increased his production to five goals and three assists for eight points in 11 games since signing. 

New Albany native Kole Sherwood is in the midst of a nine-game goal-less streak after scoring 11 goals in the previous 20 games. 

Cleveland is now 12-4-2 in its last 18 games after its nine-game point streak ended vs. Belleville. The Monsters are 7-1-1-1 in the last 10.

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 72 games   

Points: Zac Dalpe 53, Mark Letestu 46, Adam Clendening 35, Tommy Cross 33, Nathan Gerbe 32, Paul Bittner 31

Goals: Zac Dalpe 32, Mark Letestu 19, Kole Sherwood 16, Kevin Stenlund 15, Justin Scott 12, Eric Robinson 12 (with CBJ), Vitaly Abramov 12 (traded) 

Assists: Adam Clendening 32, Mark Letestu, Tommy Cross 26, Nathan Gerbe 22, Paul Bittner 22, Alex Broadhurst 21, Zac Dalpe 21


Standings Update 

Cleveland (36-27-7-2) goes into the final week of play one point ahead of Belleville for the final spot in the North Division playoffs and with a game in hand as well. Whichever team earns the No. 4 spot in the North will clinch the last spot and take on the division champ, either Syracuse or Rochester, in the opening round of the playoffs.

Next Up 

Monday, April 8 vs. Rochester, 7 p.m.

Thursday, April 11 vs. Charlotte, 7 p.m.

Friday, April 12 vs. Charlotte, 7 p.m.

Sunday, April 13 at Toronto, 4 p.m.

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