Monsters heading to Calder Cup Finals

For the first time in half a century, the Calder Cup Finals are returning to Cleveland.

The Lake Erie Monsters won the AHL’s Western Conference championship on Thursday night with a 2-1 double-overtime victory over the Ontario Reign, completing a four-game sweep of the conference’s top team in the regular season.

Lukas Sedlak scored both goals for the Monsters, including the winner 6:25 into the second OT period, and Anton Forsberg made 41 saves as Lake Erie improved to 11-2 on the postseason.

The Calder Cup Finals will return to the city of Cleveland for the first time in 50 years, since the Cleveland Barons made their 14th and final appearance in the championship series in 1966. Lake Erie will play the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Marlies and the Hershey Bears, currently led by the Bears three games to none.

On the winning goal, Sedlak came onto the ice on a line change with Lake Erie buzzing in the offensive zone and headed straight for the net, where he slammed home the rebound of Josh Anderson’s shot for his league-leading eighth goal of the postseason.

Sedlak, who scored four goals in his first 44 games this season, now has 18 goals in his last 23 contests for the Monsters.

The Monsters opened the scoring in Game 4 at the 6:26 mark of the first period. After Sonny Milano carried the puck into the offensive zone, Kerby Rychel gathered it behind the net and sent a pass in front, where Sedlak knocked it in.

Joel Lowry tied it 2:44 into the third off a Lake Erie misplay in front of their own net. Lowry’s fourth goal of the playoffs ended Ontario’s scoreless streak at 109:56.

Both teams had golden chances to score in the first OT period, including a two-minute power play for the Monsters and later, a Jordan Samuels-Thomas breakaway for the Reign. Forsberg then stopped Michael Mersch’s bid from point-blank range shortly before Sedlak got the series clincher.

Peter Budaj, returning to the form that earned him the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender during the regular season, kept the Reign in it all night with several key stops and finished with 29 saves.

As Western Conference champions, the Monsters have won the Robert W. Clarke Trophy and are heading to the Calder Cup Finals in their first season affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Guided by head coach Jared Bednar, the Monsters were 43-22-6-5 (97 points) in the regular season before defeating the Rockford IceHogs (3-0) in the Central Division semifinals, the Grand Rapids Griffins (4-2) in the Central Division finals and the Reign (4-0) in the Western Conference Finals.

Established in 1990, the AHL’s Western Conference championship trophy honors the late Robert W. Clarke. Mr. Clarke served as the Chairman of the AHL’s Board of Governors from 1967-94, and in 1956 he played an instrumental role in the formation of the Rochester Americans, one of the most successful franchises in AHL history and themselves a seven-time recipient of the Clarke Trophy.

Attendance at Quicken Loans Arena for Game 4 was 10,854.

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
P1-Ontario Reign vs. C2-Lake Erie Monsters
Game 1 – Sat., May 21 – Lake Erie 4, ONTARIO 3
Game 2 – Sun., May 22 – Lake Erie 3, ONTARIO 2
Game 3 – Tue., May 24 – LAKE ERIE 4, Ontario 0
Game 4 – Thu., May 26 – LAKE ERIE 2, Ontario 1 (2OT)