After another monumental victory last night against the Indy Fuel, the Cincinnati Cyclones (30-29-9) will close out the home side of the regular season schedule against the Evansville IceMen (15-45-8) on Saturday night.
If you were one of the 4,500 on hand last night at U.S. Bank Arena, you were treated to quite a show. In an absolute must-win situation to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Cyclones did exactly what they needed to, with some help from Evansville as well.
It got started early in the 1st period as about midway through the frame, some fierce backchecking by the dangerous Jack Combs led to a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. Combs put it right on the tape of David Pacan who head-faked Indy goaltender Shane Owen and stuffed it in short-side to give the Cyclones a 1-0 lead.
The 2nd period is where things would really start to take shape. About five minutes in, the infamous face-off play was once again successful for the Cyclones. David Pacan won it cleanly off the draw right to Jack Downing who released an absolute cannon blast that caught Owen napping to make it 2-0 Cincinnati. Exactly 30 seconds later, the Cyclones would strike for the eventual game winner as another defensive breakdown cost the Fuel. Another 2-on-1 rush saw Jack Downing feed it perfectly to David Pacan who stashed his 2nd of the night to make it 3-0 Cincinnati. Then things started to go downhill a bit as the Indy Fuel attempted to claw their way back into the game. Just a couple minutes after Cincy made it 3-0, a loose puck bounced in front of Rob Madore right to Jamie Wise who wrapped it around and tucked it in past Madore to cut the Cincy lead to 3-1. The Fuel would make things interesting as a late period strike from Matt White would draw them within one at 3-2.
An action packed 2nd period really set the tone although the 3rd period was much more subdued. A defensive battle all the way until the Cyclones got some puck luck to seal the game before the final buzzer on a vacated Indy net. A defensive zone face-off for Cincinnati was won by the Fuel, it took an odd bounce right to Geoff Irwin who did not miss an inch of a 200 foot shot that beat the buzzer by a tenth of a second to make it 4-2 Cincinnati and seal a humongous Cyclones win. The Cyclones finished the season series against Indy with a 6-2-1 record against the Fuel.
The biggest surprise of the night came about three-and-a-half hours east of Cincinnati in Wheeling, West Virginia. The Wheeling Nailers fell big time to the Evansville IceMen by a final 6-1. This was a tremendous help to Cincinnati. As of Saturday morning, the Cyclones are back in playoff position. They currently occupy the 4th and final spot in the North with a one-point edge over Wheeling, who has a game in hand on Cincinnati. The Cyclones are also two points back of 3rd place Kalamazoo. Another game we’ll be scoreboard watching tonight is taking place up at the newly named, Wings Event Center between Kalamazoo and Wheeling. It is a no-win scenario for Cincinnati but, the lesser of the two evils would be the K-Wings.
The Cyclones may be in playoff position but, there is still a ton of work to be done to secure that spot. If Cincinnati wants to play beyond April 11th, they cannot take their foot off the gas. They have really been clicking as of late and are finally starting to get some bounces to go their way. It’s actually becoming hard for me to pick “your players to watch” because everybody is starting to contribute offensively. Before, it was Combs and Downing doing everything on the offensive side of things. It’s to the point now where each night, you’ve got a different guy stepping up, and making my life harder is a fantastic sign for this Cyclones team in that regard.
Similar to what I said the other day, this is an IceMen team you cannot take for granted. As they proved last night in Wheeling, you take it easy on them, it’s going to bite you in the rear. They are not the team they were at the beginning of the season. Credit where credit is due, IceMen Head Coach, Al Sims has done a tremendous job recruiting possible pieces to the puzzle that could be huge factors for Evansville next season. I was thoroughly impressed with a pair of rookies specifically. Joe Zarbo and Luke Greiner were excellent finds by Sims. Both are averaging around a point per game since shifting from the college game to the pro game. These are two guys you have to be aware of when they’re on the ice and prevent them from causing any havoc in the Cincinnati end of the ice.
Speaking of those difficult decisions, here’s your players to watch Saturday night:
Cincinnati – F Jack Combs: He’s the Cyclones point leader and has found his way onto the scoresheet in each and every one of his games in a Cyclones uniform so far this season.
Evansville – F Joe Zarbo: Similar to Combs, he has found his way on the scoresheet in all but one of his games in an IceMen uniform. He had a goal and an assist when the Cyclones and IceMen hooked up last weekend.
We hope to see you here in Downtown Cincinnati at U.S. Bank Arena as the final home game of the regular season gets underway at 7:35pm EST. As always, if you can’t be there in person, I’ll have updates for you on Twitter @SinBinCyclones.