CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Cyclones (35-27-3-0) wrapped up their two-game series against the Atlanta Gladiators (31-32-2-3) on Friday night at US Bank Arena. After falling to the Gladiators the previous night by a score of 6-2, the Cyclones came out firing with a vengeance.
The hard-fought battle between both clubs would end 3-2 in favor of the Gladiators, extending the Cyclones losing streak to five games.
To say the opening period was a physical one would likely be some form of an understatement, as the frame had 16 penalties dished out (9-CIN, 7-ATL) for a total of 44 PIMs. The bulk of the infractions took place within the final four minutes, starting when Shawn O’Donnell laid a hit on a Gladiator into the boards in the Atlanta zone, causing Luke Sandler to near-instantaneously drop the gloves. As gracefully as one can in an altercation, O’Donnell threw a few punches before taking him down to the ice. Two minutes later, the fire spread once more as Rob De Fulviis tossed a few punches at Taylor Doherty as they skated together towards the Cyclones goal. As the two go at it behind the net more formally, players and refs broke in to intervene. Meanwhile, Justin Vaive and Taylor Stefishen take a party of their own outside the huddle. Vaive obliterates Stefishen into the ice in no time. Both O’Donnell and Vaive were sent to the locker room for their respective fights, each loudly celebrating in doing so, pumping up the home crowd.
The first period would end with a gridlocked game at one goal each. Darby Llewellyn opened the game’s scoring, with Jesse Schultz evening the score for the home team before the period expired.
Due to leftover minutes needing to be served by several players, each team’s penalty box was full as the second set of 20 minutes began. Cincinnati’s penalty area held Vaive, O’Donnell, and De Fulviis. Atlanta’s sin bin was the standing-room-only section of the arena that night, with four men within.
Early in the second frame, Daniel Muzito-Bagenda nailed in the Cyclones leading goal. Mike Barrett deeked out defenders behind the Gladiators net, quickly finding Muzito-Bagenda outside the right of goaltender Sean Bonar. Gaining control of the puck, he promptly shot a bullet over Bonar’s opposite shoulder. Muzito-Bagenda’s goal came after taking a nasty hit to the boards within the early minutes of the opening period that caused him to crouch on the ice for a few minutes. Cyclones trainer rushed to meet him and was ultimately helped off with the help of the medical assistant and Brock Beukeboom.
As the third period began, both teams were knotted at two apiece after Davis Vandane tied the score with under two minutes remaining in the second frame. The rest of the period was similar to the first in many ways, as nine penalties were dished out within the last ten minutes of the game. Beginning with five between the 12:45 and 13:43 marks, Sandler and O’Donnell both received roughing minors, and later, Tanner Pond was handed slashing and roughing minors alongside Muzito-Bagenda who was also handed a roughing infraction. Five minutes later, at the 19:58 mark, more fire ensued as Pond received yet another penalty, this time for cross-checking, and Schultz was penalized with a five-minute spearing major and a ten-minute game misconduct for the spear. Vaive would also be handed a ten-minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct. The game would ultimately end with a grand total of 85 penalties minutes, 36 coming from Atlanta and 49 from Cincinnati. Of the 27 infractions, six were for roughing, four for fighting, and two misconducts.
Between both sets of penalties within the final frame, Derek Nesbitt put in the winning goal for Atlanta at 18:57.
The loss puts Cincinnati on a five-game losing streak as they make their way to Wheeling, West Virginia to face the Nailers on Saturday. They’ll play Wheeling once again on Tuesday, March 27 in a makeup game for a contest originally scheduled for Feb. 17, but was postponed due to flooding. Next weekend, the Cyclones return to US Bank Arena to face the Ft. Wayne Komets on Friday, March 30 and the Toledo Walleye on Saturday, March 31.