CINCINNATI – After winning the Brabham Cup for the second time in franchise history, the Cincinnati Cyclones will host the Kalamazoo Wings in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs starting at US Bank Arena on Friday night. Cincinnati wrapped up the regular season championship with a home win over the Toledo Walleye on April 3. The Cyclones secured their playoff berth with 31 days remaining in the regular season, when Wheeling lost to Fort Wayne on March 6.
Kalamazoo’s road to the Kelly Cup Playoffs was a bit more suspenseful, wrapping up a playoff berth in the final week of the season on April 3 (a 2-1 overtime victory over the Wichita Thunder). The Wings will have their hands full if they want to pull off the upset during their first playoff series since 2017, where they lost in the opening round to the Toledo Walleye.
The Cyclones have been cleaning up the regular season hardware with Coach of the Year (Matt Thomas), Leading Scorer (Jesse Schultz), Defenseman of the Year (Eric Knodel), Goaltender of the Year (Michael Houser), and an All-Rookie Team nod (Myles Powell). But, don’t think that the Wings aren’t without weapons of their own. ECHL Rookie of the Year Chris Collins did tally 65 points during the season, and was tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals (six).
Final Regular Season Records:
Cincinnati Cyclones: 51-13-5-3 (1st in Central Division, 1st in Western Conference)
Kalamazoo Wings: 36-31-2-3 (4th in Central Division, 8th in Western Conference)
Game 1 – Friday, April 12 – Kalamazoo at CINCINNATI at 7:35pm ET
Game 2 – Saturday, April 13 – Kalamazoo at CINCINNATI at 7:35pm ET
Game 3 – Wednesday, April 17 – Cincinnati at KALAMAZOO at 7:30pm ET
Game 4 – Friday, April 19 – Cincinnati at KALAMAZOO at 7:30pm ET
*Game 5 – Saturday, April 20 – Cincinnati at KALAMAZOO at 7:00pm ET
* Game 6 – Tuesday, April 23 – Kalamazoo at CINCINNATI at 7:35pm ET
* Game 7 – Wednesday, April 24 – Kalamazoo at CINCINNATI at 7:35pm ET
Regular Season Series Recap:
The Cincinnati Cyclones and Kalamazoo Wings were not unknowns to each other, facing off eleven times during the regular season. After losing the season series opener in overtime at home, Cincinnati went on to win the next nine meetings between the two teams, with Kalamazoo bookending the season series with a 4-2 home win on April 3. Jesse Schultz led the Cyclones in those contests with 13 points (5 goals, 8 assists) in the head-to-head series, while Kalamazoo’s Chris Collins countered with eight points (3 goals, 5 assists).
Cyclones’ Keys to Success:
Keep doing what you’re doing. The Cyclones claimed the 2018-19 Brabham Cup with an impressive record of 51-13-5-3, with only the Florida Everblades their nearest competitor at 50-16-5-1. Cincinnati has also been dominant in the polls as well, leading in The Sin Bin’s ECHL Power Rankings for most of the year. While a handful of games against the K-Wings were close, the majority were multi-goal victories.
A very skilled team that moves the puck well, Cincy should stick to its game plan: taking few penalties to allow the team to operate 5-on-5 and creating the mismatches it does so often. Powell and Schultz will need to continue to lead (as they have all season), and Houser’s strong play in net could be a huge factor (he is among the league leaders in GAA [second] and save percentage [fourth]). Don’t change your game plan now.
Wings’ Keys to Success:
The Wings must find a way to get the Cyclones off their game, whether by forcing them into taking penalties or just playing a very physical game with them. Kalamazoo must be sound defensively and active with getting sticks in passing lanes, keeping the Cyclones from getting set up in the offensive zone because of their skill and puck moving ability. If the Wings can get Cincinnati into penalty trouble early, capitalize on power play chances, bring their A-game every night, keep every game close, and push the series to seven games, then they have a shot at winning this semifinal matchup.