ROCKFORD, IL – In the franchise’s first Calder Cup Playoff appearance since 2011, Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters claimed a 1-0 lead in the team’s first-round Central Division Semi-Final best-of-five game series vs. the Rockford IceHogs by virtue of a 5-2 victory on Wednesday at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, IL.
The Monsters grabbed a 1-0 lead at 8:32 of the first period on Wednesday when Sonny Milano sent a ricocheting puck off the post, and a Rockford defenseman, for his first of the playoffs at even strength on feeds from Ryan Craig and Zach Werenski. After successfully killing a penalty late in the frame, the Monsters pushed their lead to 2-0 on a one-time crank from Werenski at 19:41, thanks to a visionary setup from Alex Broadhurst and Michael Chaput.
Lake Erie collected the middle frame’s lone score at 11:11 when Dean Kukan scalded home a left-circle slapper on the power-play to make it 3-0 Monsters with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Broadhurst posting assists on the play. Lake Erie extended their lead to 4-0 at 9:04 of the third when a power-play marker from Broadhurst developed in the right circle thanks to a nifty passing play by Kukan and Bjorkstrand.
Rockford rallied with back-to-back even strength goals from Tyler Motte at 14:54 and Dennis Rasmussen at 16:18 of the third, respectively, but an empty-net power-play score from Trent Vogelhuber at 18:58, fed by Dillon Heatherington and Chaput, established Lake Erie’s 5-2 final margin of victory.
Joonas Korpisalo earned the win in net for the Monsters by virtue of a 28-save performance while IceHogs net-minder Mac Carruth made 21 stops on 25 pucks faced in defeat.
Game three of the Monsters’ first-round series vs. Rockford awaits on Saturday at The Q and plenty of great seats remain available, but fans are encouraged to secure their seats quickly to avoid missing out on the return of Playoff Hockey to Cleveland! With Wednesday’s game-one Monsters win, tickets to Lake Erie’s second home playoff game (either game four of the first round on Monday, April 25th or game one of the second round, time TBD) is NOW ON SALE.
Next up for the Monsters, it’s game two of the Central Division Semi-Finals vs. the IceHogs on Thursday with full coverage, live from the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford, underway at 8:00 pm on ESPN 850 WKNR and the Monsters Hockey Network.