After falling to the Grand Rapids Griffins and having just 13 shots, the Rockford IceHogs look to bounce back as they get ready for four straight duels with the Cleveland Monsters.
Cleveland comes in with a record of 0-2-1-0 and ranks second-worst in the Central Division. Head coach Mike Eaves and the Monsters have had a rough start to the season both offensively and defensively, scoring just five goals while allowing 12 to hit the back of their net. That goal total ranks 27th in the AHL, while their 12 goals allowed hovers around 12th least in the league, tying them with the Hartford Wolf Pack and Manitoba Moose, who have played four games as opposed to Cleveland's three.
Cleveland's special teams is a tale of two units. At 22.2%, their power play ranks 12th best in the AHL, but when down a man, the Monsters kill off just 58.8% of their penalties, which ranks 27th in the league. At a 5-for-12 kill clip, it gives the IceHogs yet another opportunity to straighten out their power play efforts, which have gone cold in recent games.
The Monsters' offensive attack is spearheaded by four multi-point skaters in Zac Dalpe, Trey Fix-Wolansky, Nathan Gerbe, and Ryan MacInnis, who all have one goal and one assist each. Dalpe has been around the league for quite some time, bouncing around from the Carolina Hurricanes, Minnesota Wild, Buffalo Sabres, and Vancouver Canucks organizations before coming to Columbus. The Ontario, Canada native wears the "C" for the Monsters and is familiar with the state of Ohio after playing his college hockey at Ohio State.
Fix-Wolansky is in his second year with Cleveland after playing in the WHL in his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. Standing at 5'7", Fix-Wolansky notched 26 points in 43 games for Cleveland last season, including five of his 12 goals coming on the power play.
Gerbe has 62 goals throughout his NHL career with the Sabres, Hurricanes, and Blue Jackets. The Michigan native won a championship while playing his college hockey at Boston College and was awarded the AHL's Rookie of the Year. The 5-foot-4 Gerbe was the Monsters' most recent captain, and prior to last season, he spent time overseas playing for Geneve-Servette in Switzerland.
MacInnis started out in the OHL with Kitchener where he was a captain. Once arriving in the AHL, the 6-foot-3 winger was part of the Springfield Falcons' final season. His time within the Arizona Coyotes continued in Tucson before coming to Cleveland. MacInnis also saw time with the Blue Jackets last season.
Ben Thiessen has manned the goaltending duties for Cleveland thus far in 2021. He's got a Calder Cup to speak of and was the winner of the AHL's Best Goalie early in his career. After playing his collegiate hockey at Northeastern, Thiessen saw a handful of games with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Canadian-born goalie has a .892 save percentage so far with a goals-against average of just over three.
Puck drop between the IceHogs and Monsters is set for 6:00 PM CT at BMO Harris Bank Center as the Hogs look for that ever-elusive first win of the season. The clubs will battle tomorrow night, Friday, and Saturday as well to round out the week. Follow the action with live tweets all game long and postgame reactions to follow.