CINCINNATI- The Cincinnati Cyclones return home to face the Fort Wayne Komets in Game 3 of the Central Division Semifinals tonight at US Bank Arena at 7:35 p.m. The Komets head into the tilt with the 2-0 series lead over the home team, downing the Cyclones twice over the weekend while in Ft. Wayne to open the first round.
After a hard-fought weekend on the road, Cincinnati has a small hole to dig out of when they return to home ice for the next two, potentially three, games at US Bank Arena. The first game in the best of seven series broke open on Saturday, April 14. Continuing in their dominance from the regular season, Daniel Muzito-Bagenda and Justin Vaive came out of the gate hot, recording the first two goals of the game. However, the early lead did not prove to be enough to hold down the Komets, though it did serve as a major helper later in the game as Ft. Wayne went on to record three goals to take the lead by mid-point of the third period. Minutes after the Komets took the lead, Jesse Schultz came in to tie the score back up once again, which would ultimately send Game 1 into overtime.
Up until this point, of the three games needing extra time in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, all of them required double-overtime to determine the winner. The Cyclones game was no different. Fighting for a full 20 minutes of five-on-five hockey, the contest was forced into another round of competition. After playing a full game and nearly another half, the Komets were able to break through the Cyclones defense to take the one game series lead on home ice.
Returning the next night, nearly 18 hours later, the Komets secured their second victory of the series, topping the Cyclones 3-1.
Standing out amongst the crowd, Cyclones goaltender Jonas Johansson made a powerful statement in his first two contests back with Cincinnati since his recall to the Rochester Americans in March. The tender blocked a monstrous 103 shots out of 109 sent his way. If these numbers proved anything, at the bare minimum, it shows a high-shooting game doesn’t always mean a guaranteed win for the Cyclones’ foes.
Case in point – the Komets putting 72 shots at Johansson yet still taking the game into double-overtime despite their massive difference in the 29 shots put on by the Cyclones. The next night saw a vastly different shot count from Ft. Wayne, who only put on 37 in Game 2.
As the Cyclones return to home ice for Game 3, they look to their power play unit to keep them alive. In their four goals scored over the weekend, all but one was scored while on the man advantage. Cincinnati ended the 2017-18 regular season with the second-highest power play percentage in the league, a stat which has carried over into the postseason.
That said, the team will have to step it up during even play if they want come from behind to advance to the second round. Defensively, Johansson stood tall for the Games 1 and 2, yet he’ll need the skaters in front of him to up their game play if they want to avoid another high-shot game from the Komets who have dominated shot counts all year long.
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