CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Monsters began the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs the exact same way they ended the regular season…with a win on the road.
Courtesy of a three-goal third period, the Monsters took a 1-0 lead in best-of-five division semifinal matchup against the Syracuse Crunch with a 5-3 victory at the Onondaga County War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, New York Friday night.
After a scoreless first period, the Monsters continued an intense offensive pursuit with the puck and made good on two of their eight shots in the second stanza.
Monsters alternate captain Mark Letestu initiated the scoring when he took a pass from left winger Sonny Milano as a trailer at the top of the slot and fired a heavy-handed shot into the net beyond the reach of Crunch goaltender Eddie Pasquale on the glove side with 9:45 to play in the second period.
The Monsters doubled their advantage when center Ryan MacInnis controlled a turnover in the neutral zone, drove down the ice on a breakaway and wristed the shot into the back of the net on Pasquale’s glove side with 7:34 to play in the period.
The Monsters gave up a power-play goal late in the second period and another on the penalty kill midway through the third, but the 2-2 tie with the Crunch did not last long.
Less than three minutes after surrendering the lead, the Monsters went back in front when center Kevin Stenlund took a pass from right winger Kole Sherwood and tallied his first goal of the playoffs on the power play, but Cleveland was not done.
Fifty-two seconds after retaking the lead, the Monsters doubled the advantage when center Zac Dalpe scored an unassisted tally and made it a 4-2 lead with 5:59 to play in regulation.
After the Crunch trimmed the deficit back to one, Monsters defenseman Dillon Simpson controlled the puck while on his back inside his own blue line and sent a shot down the ice that sailed into the empty net at the other end of the rink.
The Monsters will look to build onto their series lead with Game 2 of the best-of-five matchup in Syracuse Saturday night.