A look down on the farm at the Blue Jackets' top minor league team, the Cleveland Monsters, who qualified for a Calder Cup Playoffs berth with a win Sunday in the season finale over Toronto. The Monsters will take on Syracuse in a best-of-five series starting Friday.
April 8: 2-1 loss vs. Rochester: The Monsters just couldn't get enough offense in a Monday night setback at home vs. the Amerks. Tage Thompson scored twice to give the visitors a 2-0 lead before Cleveland's Mark Letestu tallied with 2:54 to play, but the Monsters couldn't find the equalizer. Brad Thiessen made 24 saves while Cleveland put 37 shots on net.
April 11: 4-3 overtime loss vs. Charlotte: The Monsters got a valuable point in a game that marked the return of both Sonny Milano and Alex Broadhurst to the lineup. Milano and Dan DeSalvo scored in the first to give the Monsters a 2-0 lead, but Charlotte tied it before the end of the frame. Calvin Thurkauf added a goal in the second but Charlotte tied the game in the third and won in OT. Thiessen made 36 saves while Milano had a goal and an assist.
April 12: 2-1 loss to Charlotte: More than 15,000 fans turned up at the newly renamed Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for the home finale but again the Monsters just didn't have enough offense to pull out the win. Derek Barach scored the lone goal in the second period to make it a 2-1 game but Cleveland couldn't score in the third. The Monsters put 41 shots on goal in the game, while Thiessen finished with 22 saves.
April 14: 5-1 win at Toronto: The Monsters punched their ticket to the playoffs with a win in the season finale and Belleville's loss the same day to Rochester. Knowing a win would put them in, Cleveland dominated with a 41-18 edge in shots. Zac Dalpe started the scoring before goals from Letestu, Doyle Somerby, Justin Scott and Barach.
Dalpe, who was called up to Columbus on Monday, finished the regular season with 33 goals, a career high and one off the AHL lead despite playing in only 55 of a possible 76 games. His 11-game point streak ended in the Monday loss but he still posted an 18-7-25 line in his last 22 AHL games.
Letestu also is red-hot with an 8-16-24 line in his last 22 games down the stretch and points in 17 of those 22 games.
Milano was welcomed back to the lineup after having not played since Jan. 26 and had a goal and two assists in his first three games back. Broadhurst had been out since Feb. 12 and had an assist in his first three games back. The Monsters are still without injured captain Nathan Gerbe and starting goaltender Jean-Francois Labbe.
Barach, a forward signed in mid-March after completing season with Mercyhurst University, increased his production to seven goals and four assists for 11 points in 15 games since signing.
New Albany native Kole Sherwood is in the midst of a 13-game goal-less streak after scoring 11 goals in the previous 20 games.
Cleveland finished the season 13-6-3 in its last 22 games to secure the playoff spot by two points over Belleville.
Final regular-season team leaders
Points: Zac Dalpe 55, Mark Letestu 50, Adam Clendening 37, Tommy Cross 34, Nathan Gerbe 32, Paul Bittner 31
Goals: Zac Dalpe 33, Mark Letestu 21, Kole Sherwood 16, Kevin Stenlund 15, Justin Scott 13
Assists: Adam Clendening 33, Mark Letestu 29, Tommy Cross 27, Nathan Gerbe 22, Paul Bittner 22, Alex Broadhurst 22, Zac Dalpe 22
Cleveland finished the regular season at 37-29-8-2 to earn fourth place in the North Division and the last playoff spot, two points ahead of Ottawa's top farm team, Belleville. The Monsters draw Syracuse, which is affiliated with Tampa Bay, in the first round. The Crunch finished the year with a 47-21-4-4 record, 18 points ahead of Cleveland.
Playoff Schedule: Round 1
Game 1: Friday, April 19 at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Saturday, April 20 at Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday, April 23 vs. Syracuse, 7:30 p.m.
Game 4: Thursday, April 25 vs. Syracuse, 7 p.m.
Game 5: Saturday, April 27 at Syracuse, 7 p.m.