If you didn’t believe in the Lake Erie Monsters, you better start believing now.
Alex Broadhurst’s third period goal lifted the Monsters to a 4-3 win over the defending Calder Cup champion Ontario Reign Saturday night. The Monsters lead the best-of-seven series 1-0, with Game 2 coming Sunday night, just over 20 hours after Game 1 ended.
All the talk leading into Game 1 was how good Ontario’s defense and goaltending is. So what does Lake Erie do? After falling behind 1-0 in the second period, they rattle off three unanswered goals in a span of 2:36. Lukas Sedlak tied the game. Then Josh Anderson and Ryan Craig increased the lead. It was the first time in the playoffs, and overall since February 20th, that the Reign gave up three goals in a period.
Last time ONT gave up 3 goals in a period was 2/20 against San Diego
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) May 22, 2016
The game wasn’t over. The Reign opened the third period by scoring twice in 8:16 to tie the game. They now had the momentum. It looked like they were on their way to a come-from-behind victory in Game 1.
Not so fast.
All it took was 16 seconds. That’s how long it took Broadhurst to score the game-winning goal. Talk about answering the bell when the Reign had all the momentum. The Monsters were able to hold on and secure victory.
This was an impressive performance by a team who many didn’t know about coming into these playoffs. Yes, the Monsters swept Rockford out of the first round. Yes, the Monsters won a hard-fought series against Grand Rapids. But as a whole, the Monsters were still an unknown commodity.
That’s not the case anymore. They are very much known now.
A very strong opening performance by Lake Erie. Monsters' depth is substantial and comes through as usual. #AHL
— PATRICK WILLIAMS (@pwilliamsNHL) May 22, 2016
All the Monsters did was travel across country to the home of the defending champions and played an inspired game against a team that many expected would win Game 1. The Monsters used their speed to get the lead. They used their resiliency to regain the lead. With the help of a goal post, they stole home-ice advantage away from Ontario.
Many saw the teams playing in the AHL Final Four and thought the same thing. The Toronto Marlies are good. The Hershey Bears are good. The Ontario Reign are the defending league champions. They were known commodities. Then there were the Lake Erie Monsters. Last season, they were the Springfield Falcons. The Blue Jackets AHL franchise has never enjoyed this kind of postseason success. The prevailing thought was “who are these guys?”
Turns out these guys are really good at ice hockey, and not afraid of the moment or the pressure that comes with the moment.
Many teams could have easily given in after losing a two-goal third period lead. Not this team, not now. They don’t back down from anybody. Not only do they feel like they can win this series, they feel like they can win the Calder Cup. This series with Ontario is far from over. But Saturday night proved that Lake Erie can play with the Reign. Not only can they play with them, they can beat them.
It’s time that the Lake Erie Monsters get the respect nationally they deserve. When you go on the road and do things that very few teams have been able to do to Ontario, you deserve credit. The Monsters put 34 shots on Reign goalie Peter Budaj. He averaged seeing just under 22 shots/game in the playoffs before Saturday. Budaj also allowed three goals in a game just a handful of times this season. He allowed three in just under three minutes on Saturday.
The Monsters have three things on their roster that give them every chance to win this series. They have speed. They have skill. They have experienced veterans that know how to handle different situations. That is a good recipe for playoff success. The Monsters are now 8-2 in these playoffs.
The Monsters certainly now have the full attention of the Reign. They also now have the full attention of the hockey world. They are no longer the unknown commodity in these playoffs. We’ll see how the rest of this series shakes out. But Game 1 showed us all that the Lake Erie Monsters belong here. They deserve it.