Checkers extend Monsters losing streak to five games, 3-2

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Dec. 31—New Year's resolution for the Cleveland Monsters: Play hard for three periods and not just two of them.

The Monsters out-hustled and outscored the Charlotte Checkers in the final two periods in a New Year's Eve matinee at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, but they were doomed because the Checkers outscored them, 3-0, in the first period and held on to win, 3-2. The Checkers won by the same score on Dec. 29.

"We just looked outclassed in the first period," said Coach Trent Vogelhuber, who pulls no punches. "We had to raise our level."

The intermissions between the first and second periods and between the second and third last 18 minutes each. Vogelhuber did not need that much time to light a fire under his team.

"I said it looked like there were some players that didn't belong in this league," Vogelhuber said. "There's a lot of opportunity in our lineup right now. It's time to show if you think you deserve to play in this league or beyond.

"Our lineup isn't going to be as thin as it is right now. Columbus (the Monsters' NHL parent club) is going through opportunities for people to step into new roles and climb up a couple lines. It's not always going to be there. That window closes quickly."

The Monsters (12-13-1-2) have lost five straight and seven of their last 10 games to tumble into sixth place in the AHL North. They were outshot, 19-3, by the Checkers in the first period on Dec. 31.

The Monsters scored both their goals in the third period. Trey Fix-Wolansky scored on a one-timer from the top of the left circle during a 5-on-3 power play 7:26 into the final period to make it a 3-1 game.

Vogelhuber pulled goalie Jett Greaves with about five minutes to play. Cole Fonstad rang a shot off the left post and in with 3:52 remaining for his eighth goal of the season. Some fans among the crowd of 10,764 who thought about leaving early got comfortable in their seats again, hoping the Monsters could complete the comeback, but it was not to be.

The Monsters outshot Charlotte, 27-17, over the final two periods.

Before Fix-Wolansky scored his 14th goal of the season, the highlight for the fans was a skirmish between Monsters on-ice policeman Brett Gallant and Charlotte defenseman John Ludvig with 24.9 seconds left in the second period. Gallant ripped off Ludvig's black helmet in the fray and got four minutes for roughing. Ludvig was penalized two minutes for roughing.

Since the penalties occurred with less than two minutes left in the period, both players were sent to their respective locker rooms.

On his way off the ice, Gallant flipped Ludvig's helmet into the stands. The fans loved it. The referees did not. Gallant got a game misconduct penalty. The Monsters' scoreboard crew flashed Gallant's picture on the Humungotron with the notation: "Brett Gallant 1,500 AHL penalty minutes." The crowd acknowledged the milestone with loud cheers and applause.

Gallant's gesture seemed to ignite his teammates for the third period, though Vogelhuber didn't see it that way.

Before Fonstand scored to make it 3-2, he had a chance to score with the puck in the crease near his skates, but before he could get his stick into position to score, a Charlotte player swept the puck away.

"You get the bounces you deserve," Vogelhuber said. "That's our group right now. It's an inability to either get to the competitive and urgency level early enough or to sustain it long enough. That's immaturity and inexperience when you can't sustain the level you need. That's what we're going through right now."

The Monsters are off until Jan. 4 when they play the Griffins in Grand Rapids.