INDIANAPOLIS, IN – After a hot February, going on a 9-3-1 run, the Cincinnati Cyclones started the month of March with a pair of road games in Quad City and Indy. These games were a pair of a must-win divisional games. The Cyclones needed a huge weekend, and they got it, continuing their hot play, outscoring the Mallards and Fuel a combined tally of 11-3 on the weekend.
FRIDAY: Cincinnati exploded in the 1st period against Quad City, getting three goals in the span of about three minutes from Seth Ambroz, Colin Mulvey, and Jonathan Diaby (His first professional goal) to put Cincinnati ahead 3-0. There would not be anymore scoring until the final frame as the Cyclones would continue the onslaught getting an early goal from Joe Wilson and two tallies midway through the 3rd from Tommy Mele and Zach Budish to extend the Cincinnati lead to 6-0. Quad City would get a couple late-3rd period goals from Matt Neal and Matt Carey. Despite the Mallards outshooting the Cyclones 34-31, Cincinnati would walk away with a 6-2 win. It was not a good night for Quad City goaltender, Brody Hoffman, who usually gives the Cyclones a ton of crap. Hoffman was “that” goalie for Cincinnati early on in the season; who they couldn’t beat to save their lives. Hopefully that game was a sign the Cyclones have finally figured out Hoffman as they will see Quad City four more times this season.
SATURDAY: Not as much of a fast start compared to Friday, but Cincinnati managed to get a 1st period lead with a power play goal from Nick Huard (his league-leading 13th power play goal of the season) to take a 1-0 lead into the locker room. The Cyclones would continue pouring it on in the 2nd, getting goals ten seconds apart from Christiaan Minella and Zach Budish at the 5:07 and 5:17 marks of the middle frame. This would spell the end of Indy netminder, Mac Carruth’s night as he was replaced by Keegan Asmundson immediately afterwards. Indy Head Coach, Scott Hillman would take a chance at pulling Asmundson for the extra attacker during a mid-period power play, however it would bite them in the rectum as Seth Ambroz hit the empty net to make it 4-0 Cincinnati on the shorthanded tally. The Cyclones would add another shorthanded goal just minutes late from Jack Downing (His league-leading 27th goal of the season). Indy’s Sam Jardine would spoil the shutout bid with a goal in the final minutes. 5-1 Cincinnati would be your final.
That’s good for points in seven straight games and wins in ten of the last 12 games for Cincinnati.
The two goals from Minella and Budish that were ten seconds apart in the 2nd period of Saturday’s game were good for the 3rd fastest pair of goals in Cyclones history. The 2nd fastest came on January 5th, 2008 between Jean-Michael Daoust and James Sixsmith (nine seconds) against Reading while the fastest pair of goals in Cyclones history came on February 28th, 2009 between Dustin Sproat and Justin Johnson (seven seconds) against Elmira.
It was another solid pair of outings for the reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Month, Andy Iles. He stopped 62 of 65 shots he faced on the weekend, improving his record in a Cincinnati uniform to 13-5-1, with a goals against average of 2.28, and a save percentage of 0.921. Iles has started in 19 of Cincinnati’s last 22 games and has proven to be one hell of a find for Matt Macdonald’s club. I’d even go as far and say regardless of what happens playoff wise, locking up Iles for next season is a priority over the off-season.
The win on Saturday put Cincinnati in 1st place in the Midwest Division for a glorious two-hour span, however, it was not meant to be as Fort Wayne defeated Rapid City in Overtime 3-2 to push the Komets back on top of the Cyclones by a point. The way things are shaping, it would appear that on March 29th, when the Komets come to Cincinnati for the 10th and final meeting of the regular season between the two teams, could be the game that decides who takes home the Midwest Division crown.
The win on Saturday also helped the Cyclones tie their amount of wins from last season. In 2014-2015, Cincinnati finished with a record of 31-30-2-9. With a month left in the 2015-2016 season, they currently have a record of 31-20-3-3.
Heading into the 2nd week of March, the Cyclones sit in 2nd in the Midwest Division and 5th in the Western Conference with 68 points; just one point ahead of the 6th place Utah Grizzlies and one point behind the 4th place Allen Americans. If the playoffs started today, Cincinnati would face defending Kelly Cup Champion, Allen in round 1.
Cincinnati’s current magic number, in other words, the amount of points they need to clinch a Kelly Cup Playoff spot is 23. Quad City sits in 9th in the Conference with 58 points and 16 games remaining. The most points the Mallards can get is 90, so the Cyclones need 91 to clinch at this point in time. Every time either Cincinnati wins or Quad City loses in regulation, that number shrinks by two. That’s why the four games remaining against the Mallards are beyond crucial because, if Cincinnati can manage to win, that 23 will shrink by four. So, the Cyclones have a chance to shrink that 23 by 16 off of the remaining Quad City games alone.
In fact, Cincinnati has a trio of monumental divisional games on the list coming up…
THE WEEK AHEAD:
Friday March 11th, vs Quad City – 7:35pm EST
Saturday March 12th, vs Quad City – 7:35pm EST
Sunday March 13th, @ Indy – 3:05pm EST
Cincinnati currently has a record of 4-2-1 against Quad City and a record of 3-3-1 against Indy.