The Lake Erie Monsters are one win away from a trip to the Calder Cup Finals after a 4-0 rout of the Ontario Reign in front of 8,823 fans at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Tuesday night.
The Monsters, who have wins in 19 of their last 23 games overall, now have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference Finals and can sew up their first conference championship as soon as Game 4 on Thursday (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Ohio, AHL Live).
Lake Erie scored three times in a span of 4:27 during the first period to break Game 3 open, a similar MO to their wins in Game 1 (three goals in 2:36) and Game 2 (two goals in 12 seconds).
Oliver Bjorkstrand opened the scoring six minutes into the game when he intercepted an Ontario clear in the neutral zone, fought through a couple of defenders and backhanded a shot past Peter Budaj to make it 1-0.
Markus Hannikainen, who did not have a goal in Lake Erie’s first nine playoff games, scored for the second contest in a row at 16:31 of the second period, swatting home a rebound from in close to make it 4-0.
The third period began with Michael Houser taking over in the Reign net for Budaj (17 saves), just the second time in 72 starts this season that the Baz Bastien Award winner has been pulled.
Anton Forsberg (4-0) made 26 saves in the shutout and won his fourth consecutive decision since taking over the starting duties for Lake Erie.
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 – Ontario at Lake Erie, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., May 28 – Ontario at Lake Erie, noon
*Game 6 – Tue., May 31 – Lake Erie at Ontario, 10:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 1 – Lake Erie at Ontario, 10:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern
— AHL (@TheAHL) May 24, 2016