Updated: Sep 20
When the Monsters came into the American Hockey League, they weren’t affiliated with the Columbus Blue Jackets, nor were they known as the Cleveland Monsters. Instead, they affiliated with the 2022 Stanley Cup Champion Colorado Avalanche and were called the Lake Erie Monsters.
Under the tutelage of Colorado, Lake Erie qualified for the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Monsters managed to take what seemed like an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the series over the Manitoba Moose (affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets) but would proceed to lose the next three games and lose the series 4-3.
Once the book closed on the 2014-2015 season, the relationship between the Monsters and Avalanche came to an end. The Avalanche became associated with the San Antonio Rampage, who are now the Henderson Silver Knights (affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights). Meanwhile, the Monsters would enter into a multi-year agreement with their in-state neighbors the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The new Lake Erie-Columbus relationship would pay dividends immediately. In the first year of the partnership, Lake Erie qualified for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. In the first round, Lake Erie would sweep the Rockford IceHogs (affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks) 3-0 in the best-of-five series.
In the second round, Lake Erie would matchup with their biggest rival in the Western Conference in the Grand Rapids Griffins (affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings). The Monsters would win the first three games of the series to take a commanding 3-0 lead. They finished the Griffins off in Grand Rapids in six games, sending the team to Ontario, California to play the Ontario Reign (affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings) in the Western Conference Finals. Lake Erie would go on to sweep the Reign 4-0 to advance to the Calder Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.
In the Calder Cup Finals, the Monsters would face off with the Eastern Conference champion Hershey Bears (affiliate of the Washington Capitals). With the Monsters up 3-0 heading into Game 4, 19,665 people, myself included, were packed into the former Quicken Loans Arena on June 11, 2016 hoping to witness history. It was the first true sellout in the history of the Lake Erie Monsters, although if the NHL came to Cleveland for a neutral site game, I think Rocket Mortage FieldHouse would see similar numbers.
Game 4 was a goaltender showdown. Monsters goaltender Anton Forsberg and Justin Peters were making saves left and right, absolutely nothing was getting past them! At the end of regulation, the game remained scoreless 0-0. Overtime continued what we saw in regulation, with each goaltender standing on their heads making saves left and right. As the clock ticked down in Overtime 1, it looked like Overtime 2 was inevitable. That’s when Oliver Bjorkstrand put home the series-winning goal with 2.9 seconds to give Lake Erie a 1-0 win and send Quicken Loans Arena into mass hysteria.
Photo: Jansky/Icon Sportswire
The Monsters went 15-2 in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Their only losses were against the Griffins in Game 4 and Game 5 of the Central Division Finals. I was in attendance for Game 2 against Grand Rapids and Game 4 against Hershey, as well as the championship celebration and banner raising.
After the Monsters captured the Calder Cup, they announced they would be changing their name to the Cleveland Monsters. However, that wasn’t the only change Cleveland would be experiencing.
Before the start of the 2018-2019 season, the Monsters moved to the North Division in the Eastern Conference. This gave the Monsters a whole new set of opponents to match up with, and it gave Cleveland the opportunity to establish new rivalries.
Cleveland would immediately embrace the new division, as they would once again qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs in 2019. In the first round, the Monsters dispatched of the Syracuse Crunch (affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning) 3-1, setting up a showdown with the Toronto Marlies (affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs) in the North Division Finals. The Marlies didn’t allow the Monsters to win one game in the series as Toronto swept Cleveland.
This past season, the Monsters finished in last place in the North Division, going 28-35-8-5 and finished with 69 points. They hired Trent Vogelhuber, who was on the 2016 championship team, to be their new head. There’s nowhere to go but up for the Monsters this season. Hopefully, they’re able to rise up in the standings and be part of the Calder Cup Playoffs again in 2022.
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