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The Monsters Report: Rychel Rolling

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets


Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has often noted how quickly a team can get rolling in a positive direction if just one or two things get it started.

That's particularly true right now for the team's AHL affiliate in Cleveland. The Lake Erie Monsters are brimming with confidence, and for a young team full of many new faces in a new city, new arena and new surroundings, that simply cannot be understated.

Entering last Thursday's game against the Charlotte Checkers at Quicken Loans Arena (get accustomed to us affectionately calling it "The Q" in this space, by the way), the Monsters were 3-0-1 in their last four games and making a serious push for the top spot in the Central Division.

One of the many good things for Lake Erie right now: the Monsters (4-1-0-1) sit in solo second place in the division behind the Chicago Wolves, but both clubs have only played seven games.

Some AHL clubs have played as many as 11 games, so the Monsters have some ground to make up; based on how they're playing right now, they could climb even higher in the weeks ahead.

So, about that Thursday game.

The Monsters had themselves an ideal start, winning races to loose pucks and getting quality chances off the rush. Markus Hannikainen opened the scoring 5:39 into the game (a power play goal), firing from the slot and getting a helpful bounce off a Charlotte defenseman and into the net.

Brody Sutter tied the game in the second period for Charlotte, but big Oleg Yevenko regained the lead for Lake Erie with a slap shot through traffic at 14:57. With less than 90 seconds left in the middle frame, Kerby Rychel scored to give the Monsters a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.

Trevor Carrick scored to bring the Checkers within a goal in the third period, but Anton Forsberg was rock solid between the pipes -- one of the constants for the Monsters early on.

"We got off to a bit of a slow start, but good teams find a way to win," Rychel said post-game on Thursday.

WATCH: KERBY RYCHEL INTERVIEW (10/29)

In contrast to Thursday's tight-checking game, the Saturday rematch with the Checkers was quite the opposite.

The two teams combined for 10 goals in regulation, went through a scoreless overtime period, and had to settle it in a shootout.

Lake Erie appeared to be in pretty good shape in the third period, too; Daniel Zaar and Trent Vogelhuber (shorthanded) scored goals at 5:00 and 9:13, giving the Monsters a two-goal cushion with half the third period remaining.

Charlotte got a timely response goal from Danny Biega at 12:18, and inside the final 30 seconds, Phil Di Giuseppe beat Joonas Korpisalo to force overtime.

Rychel added another goal in Saturday's 6-5 shootout loss, giving him four goals and 10 points in six games. Hannikainen is the next closest, with two goals and four assists in seven games.

Goaltending continues to be the Monsters' strongest asset. Forsberg, who has started four of the Monsters' first seven games, has three wins and a .915 save percentage. Korpisalo's numbers are even better with a 1.58 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in three appearances.

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