Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Rochester Americans 4 at Lake Erie Monsters 3 - January 4, 2011

When I originally planned this trip, I needed to find an event close to Buffalo for Tuesday, the day between the WJHC semi-finals and finals. Turned out that the AHL has a team in Cleveland, the Lake Erie Monsters, and they had a game that evening. Cleveland is just 3 hours from Buffalo, so I decided to add another rink to my roadtrip resume.

Quicken Loans Arena

Located in downtown Cleveland next to Progressive Field, the Q is the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA as well. For the AHL, the upper deck is closed off, so I won't bother discussing it in detail here, as I saw the Cavs the following day.

For hockey, there are a number of seating options but it's best to buy the cheapest tickets at $10 and sit where you want. The arena has an interesting set up (as you can see above) in that the lower 10 rows are very flat and completely separate from the club section, which are much steeper and comprise the upper 20 rows in the sections down the sideline. I've never seen so many club seats in a venue, but these offer the best view for hockey.

This Tuesday also saw Ohio State playing in the Sugar Bowl, so there were maybe 500 fans in the rink (despite an announced attendance of 3,034) but the Monsters still put on a great show, including having the players skate out from a large monster head at one end of the arena.

Cleveland actually has a storied hockey history as the Old Barons of the AHL had a semi-dynasty, taking 9 championships over 25 years. Leaf legend Johnny Bower also spent several seasons here. Nice to see these commemorated in the rafters.

The Monsters also have a unique team cleaning the ice during official timeouts: The Mullet Brothers, an imitation of the Hanson Brothers from the movie Slapshot.

The view below is from the $10 seats, it's the last row of section 117 which is actually great for hockey.

I love going to big venues for small teams, it gives me a chance to see things that you might not otherwise get to see. For example, there is a VIP room at one end of the building, this is not accessible during Cavs' games but you can walk through when the hockey is on. However, I wasn't allowed to view the memorabilia, being instructed to walk right through. Nonetheless, here is a picture below.

The Game

Lake Erie's parent club is Colorado, goalie John Grahame, who spent 8 NHL seasons mostly as a backup, is perhaps their most famous player. Rochester is Florida's affiliate and boasts Kenndal McCardle (#22 below), whose lone NHL goal came nearly a year before against Toronto in a game I attended.

The teams traded unassisted goals in the first, but Grahame had trouble in the second, letting in 3 quick goals, starting with a power play marker from Michal Repik (below) at 10:01. Just 23 seconds later, Scott Timmins tipped a Repik pass home, and Jordan Knackstedt added another at 15:14. Despite just six shots on goal during the period, the Americans (Rochester that is, not Team USA!) had staked themselves to a solid 3-goal lead.

Rochester began the third shorthanded, and when Mike Kostka took a slashing penalty just 32 seconds in, the Monsters had a 2-man advantage. With 15 seconds left in the 5-on-3, Travis Gawryletz scored and seven seconds later Ryan Stoa added another. Suddenly we had a game! The 500 fans went wild! But Rochester netminder Jacob Markstrom (making a save below), who won a silver medal with Sweden in the 2009 WJHC in Ottawa, was able to keep the Monsters from tying the game and the visitors escaped with a 4-3 victory.

The power-play goals in the third period meant that everyone got a free chalupa at Taco Bell.

Afterwards Sharpy and I went to a bar to watch a bit of the Sugar Bowl. It was completely dead as most fans decided to stay warm and stay home to watch their Buckeyes. The bar closed before the game even ended (not that surprising when you consider how bloody long college football games can be) and as we made our way home through the deserted downtown streets, we hoped that the visitors winning streak (4-for-4 so far) on this trip would continue tomorrow when we returned to the Q for the Raptors and Cavaliers. Check back tomorrow for a post on that game.



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