Patrick Williams, Features Writer

One call can change a lot of plans.

After taking the Rochester Americans to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, Malcolm Subban earned himself a contract with the St. Louis Blues organization on the first day of free agency last summer. He had spent this season with the Springfield Thunderbirds, a proven pressure goaltender immersed in a playoff battle.

But on March 8, that one call came. And Subban was off to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“It’s a business,” Subban said. “The tough part is you make connections with the guys on the team. It’s always tough to leave the guys.”

With Subban in the organization, the Blue Jackets have someone who can easily slot in as a recall option or station in Cleveland, where he can help anchor the Monsters in net as well as mentor promising All-Star Jet Greaves.

“I was definitely excited for the opportunity in Cleveland,” Subban said. “It’s been great so far. Everyone’s been so nice to me. It’s been awesome.”

It was an easy call for the Blue Jackets, who were active in bulking up the Cleveland roster. And while the Jackets have dipped heavily into the Monsters roster with several recalls over the last couple of weeks, it should be a well-stocked group once the Calder Cup Playoffs arrive.

Since winning the championship in 2016, the Monsters have only qualified for the postseason once. Building a winning culture in Cleveland is important to the Blue Jackets, and the highly regarded Subban fits into that plan. In addition to last year’s run with Rochester, Subban helped Providence to the conference finals in 2017, and was with the Vegas Golden Knights when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.

And thanks to a five-game homestand, Subban has had time to settle in with both the Monsters and his new city. He already has a Monsters-themed mask and has appeared in a pair of games with the club.

“It’s been great,” Subban said of coming to Cleveland. “It’s an awesome city and a great group of guys here. Going deep in the playoffs last year and having another shot to potentially get there again and hopefully go further, I’m really excited about that. It’s exciting to get that opportunity, and they don’t come around often.”

The atmosphere at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena last spring was electric. This year, Cleveland is leading the league in attendance, including 15,525 fans on hand at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for last night’s game against Hershey.

“I found personally how fun it is to play in front of sold-out crowds,” Subban said of last year’s playoff experience. “Especially elimination games, but just every game in general. It’s just so fun, and it’s why we play the game. You play the whole season to get into playoffs and to play in the postseason. There’s nothing like it.”

Subban clearly craves more of that. It’s that chance to play deep into April, May, maybe even June that made the excitement in his voice clear. He is still pursuing that first Calder Cup championship.

“I love it every time we’re there, and the experience is just unreal. “

There have been a string of masterpieces for the Manitoba Moose across the past month, but their latest one may have been their best yet.

Opening a two-game weekend series at home against Abbotsford yesterday, the Moose outshot the Canucks, 45-12, and secured a 3-2 win against a dangerous Canucks attack.

The teams meet again this afternoon in Winnipeg.

It was the 10th win in the past 12 games for the Moose, a charge that has them seven points clear of the Central Division playoff line at 58 points and within striking distance of fourth-place Texas (64 points) and third-place Rockford (65 points). When the run began, they were one point out of a playoff spot and 14 points behind the Stars.

The late-season push has left head coach Mark Morrison pleased.

“I think the most important thing was we stuck with it,” Morrison told reporters after yesterday’s win. “We stuck to the plan. We didn’t deter off it. I think it’s been like that for the last month and a half. I think they’ve bought into the system, and they’ve bought into how they have to play hard.

“They realize the importance of the time right now. Some great leadership, a great core group in there, and it’s on them. They’re the ones that are doing it.”

The Syracuse Crunch announced on Thursday that captain Gabriel Dumont will miss the rest of the season after having surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Dumont has been a fixture with Syracuse for much of his 14-year pro career, spending parts of six of them with the Crunch. The hard-nosed, two-way forward had 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) in 47 games this season. His injury is the latest hit to a Syracuse lineup that has also lost Mitchell Chaffee to an extended recall to Tampa Bay and All-Star defenseman Jack Thompson to a trade with San Jose on Mar. 7.

Still, the Crunch have kept going, their 76 points tied with Cleveland atop the North Division. Syracuse opened the weekend with a big 5-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday before dropping a 6-4 decision in Springfield last night. The Crunch are in Providence this afternoon to face the Bruins, who are second overall in the Eastern Conference.

Even when the Coachella Valley Firebirds’ luck is bad, they still find a way to make it a productive night.

The Firebirds had rallied from 2-0 down on Friday night to take a 3-2 lead midway through the third period in Bakersfield, and were about to go on a power play. Working the puck behind the Condors net and with goaltender Ales Stezka on his way off the ice for an extra skater on the delayed penalty, an attempted dish into the slot instead slid the entire length of the ice into the vacated Coachella Valley net. Defenseman Alex Peters was the last Condor to have touched the puck and received credit for the tying goal.

But Stezka held the Firebirds in the game through the rest of regulation, got the game to overtime to earn a point, and finished with 31 saves in what was an eventual 4-3 shootout loss, their 14th straight road game without a regulation defeat.

Coachella Valley then returned home last night and scored three goals in the final 4:46 to rally past Texas, 4-2. The Firebirds, who clinched a Calder Cup Playoff berth on Friday, own a 13-game points streak (10-0-1-2) and have an eight-point edge for the Pacific Division lead.

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