Monsters set sights on first

Gawryletz among top five plus/minus defencemen in league

A late-season run has Travis Gawryletz and the Lake Erie Monsters aiming high as the American Hockey League playoffs approach.

With six games left in the regular season, the Monsters sit two points out of first place in the AHL’s North Division while holding a game in hand over the front-running Manitoba Moose.

Lake Erie, which is the top minor league affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, has won 11 of its last 14 games and saw a franchise-record eight-game winning streak come to an end on Wednesday after a 3-2 loss to the Rockford IceHogs.

Gawryletz had the game winner last week in a 2-1 victory over Rochester, which established a new win-streak record for the team.

It was the Trail native’s fourth goal of the season. He has 18 points in 69 games.

The defenceman, who honed his skills with the KIJHL’s Beaver Valley Nitehawks and BCHL’s Trail Smoke Eaters, is shining on the blueline.

His plus/minus rating of +22 is fourth among all defencemen in the AHL.

Ironically, the team’s previous loss, prior to Wednesday, was back on March 5 in another 3-2 defeat to the IceHogs.

Nevertheless, the recent run has the team in the thick of a tight playoff race as the season heads into its final days.

The Monsters trail Manitoba, the Vancouver Canucks affiliate, by two points and lead Hamilton, the Montreal Canadiens affiliate, by a single point.

Hamilton and Lake Erie meet tonight in another game with huge playoff implications.

Also on the team’s schedule are back-to-back games against the Toronto Marlies.

The Marlies sit fourth in the division only seven points back of the Monsters.