CLEVELAND — With the puck in his possession and plenty of time on the clock, Libor Sulak wound up and ripped off a shot from the left-wing circle, sniping the puck straight into the top-left corner of Brad Thiessen’s net for his first goal of the season.
But even with the early first-period goal from Sulak and an addition to the score from Carter Camper in the second frame, the Grand Rapids Griffins fell in overtime, 3-2, to the Cleveland Monsters at Quicken Loans Arena on Friday.
After keeping Cleveland (17-11-4-0) scoreless for the first two periods of regulation, the Griffins were constrained to a single shot in the final frame while the Monsters netted two third-period goals to even the score. A goal from Kevin Stenlund in the extra frame forced Grand Rapids to salvage a single point from the overtime loss.
The Griffins will close out the home-and-home series with Cleveland on Saturday, when they host the Monsters at Van Andel Arena at 7 p.m. Grand Rapids (17-11-3-2) will then take a one-day break before hosting the Rockford IceHogs in their 22nd annual New Year’s Eve game at 6 p.m. on Monday.
Sulak lit the lamp just 4:20 into regulation to open scoring. After Chris Terry couldn’t find a clear shot near the blue line, he passed the puck to Sulak in the circle who cleared it to give the Griffins the early advantage.
The rest of the first period stayed scoreless with the assistance of Harri Sateri, who stifled the Monsters’ best opportunity of the frame. Cleveland’s Sonny Milano and Stenlund chucked in back-to-back shots on the power play around 10:13 of the frame, but Sateri notched saves on both to keep the Monsters off the board.
Grand Rapids headed to a power play to end the first period and begin the second after Milano was called for high-sticking at 18:37, but the opportunity proved fruitless. Four consecutive minutes on the power play were granted back to the Griffins just 3:06 into the frame, but the unit’s struggles continued as they ended the night 0-for-5.
It wasn’t until the 8:50 mark that Camper extended Grand Rapids’ lead to 2-0. Matt Puempel slid the puck to Camper in the high slot from the boards, who flung in a shot that rang off the left post and into the net.
In a third period that saw the Monsters outshoot Grand Rapids 19-1, Justin Scott put Cleveland on the board 3:39 into the frame. Scott gathered a pass from Adam Clendening in the left circle and lobbed it past Sateri, cutting the Griffins’ lead in half.
With 1:39 left in regulation and a 6-on-4 advantage due to an empty net and a Camper penalty for cross-checking, the Monsters’ Mark Letestu netted the equalizer with a one-timer from the left-wing circle to force overtime and sentence the Griffins’ penalty kill unit to a 3-for-4 finish on the night.
Just 1:34 into extra frame, Milano set up Stenlund with the puck in the high slot, who finished it off for the game-winner.
Notes: Sateri finished the night with 33 saves, while Thiessen notched 19 for the win...The Griffins’ one shot on goal in the final frame tied the franchise record for the fewest shots in a period...An Ohio native, Camper posted 42 points (13-29—42) through 53 games and finished last season as the Monsters’ leading scorer even after being traded to Tucson on Feb. 26.
Three Stars: 1. CLE Stenlund (game-winning goal); 2. CLE Letestu (goal, assist); 3. CLE Gerbe (two assists)