Can they do it? Will the Cincinnati Cyclones (27-28-7) be the team that kills the ECHL record-breaking streak of 21 straight wins by the South Carolina Stingrays (39-18-7)? On Wednesday, the two teams will hook up for the first and only time at U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati. The Cyclones are looking to kill two birds with one stone. They’re trying to kill their four game winless skid while at the same time, killing South Carolina’s 21 game winning streak.
If you missed out on Saturday’s game down in Charleston against these same Stingrays, you missed a game that was entertaining and frustrating at the same time. The party got started just 53 seconds in as Wayne Simpson fed a cross-crease feed right to the tape of Rob Ricci who was able to just barely slip it by Rob Madore to make it a 1-0 South Carolina game. But, it wouldn’t be long for Cincinnati to respond (this would soon become a theme later on in the contest) as just about a minute later, Nick Huard forced a turnover, saw Steven Hodges at the bottom of the circle, and Hodges was able to finish off the job to tie the game at 1-1. Hodges’ tally would break Stingrays goaltender Jeff Jakaitis’ four game shutout streak. Jakaitis was about ten minutes away from making modern day pro hockey history. Special Teams would be the death of Cincinnati as Drew MacKenzie one-timed a pass from Andrew Rowe by Madore to put South Carolina ahead once again, 2-1 late in the 1st Period on the powerplay.
The trend would really continue in the 2nd as Cincinnati answered right back just 37 seconds in. A scramble effort in the South Carolina crease saw about three different Cyclones get whacks at it, but, it was the former Stingray, Stephan Vigier who tucked it home to pull Cincinnati even at 2-2. Special Teams would once again kill Cincinnati as on South Carolina’s 2nd Power Play chance, Andrew Rowe, with some English on it, was able to slide one through Madore to make it a 3-2 Stingrays game. Bet you can guess what happened next? Yup! Not even 2 minutes later, Cincinnati answered right back. A 2-on-1 in the Stingrays zone broke out, Steven Hodges fed it perfectly to Nick Huard who fired home his 1st Professional Career goal between the wickets of Jakaitis to make it a 3-3 game.
Things would calm down in the 3rd period a bit as it turned into an absolute defensive battle. Just 12 shots combined in the final frame of regulation, 8 for South Carolina, 4 for Cincinnati. But, the Cyclones would get their first lead of the night as halfway through the 3rd, Shayne Taker forced a turnover at the Stingrays blue line, walked up the slot, and beat Jakaitis high glove side to make it 4-3 Cincinnati. This is the part where Cincy really shot themselves in the foot a bit. A string of stupid penalties, three in a row to be exact, cost the Cyclones this game. Against a South Carolina powerplay that had been perfect all night, this was not what the Clones needed to happen. They were able to survive the first two penalty kills, but, the third one converted. The puck pinballed in the slot, right to the stick of Caleb Herbert who beat Madore to tie it up at 4 with just over a minute left in regulation.
This game would end up in a shootout, something that has made Cincinnati fans hate life since the beginning of the season. Cincinnati would fall to 1-6 in shootouts as Joe Devin and Caleb Herbert struck for South Carolina in the shootout to give the Stingrays the 5-4 shootout win. Nick Huard was the lone shootout goal scorer for Cincinnati.
Nonetheless, plenty of positives to take out of that if you’re a Cincinnati fan. Yes, the Cyclones dropped their eighth game in the last nine contests, but, the team had a fire in their eyes that has been greatly missed the past few weeks. They played like they wanted to win, which was terrific to see. Safe to say, special teams is going to make or break the Cyclones tonight. South Carolina’s Power Play was 3/5 on Saturday night. Staying out of the box and avoid making those dumb mistakes is crucial tonight. Cincinnati proved they can outplay South Carolina at even strength.
The Cyclones are getting some defensive help from their AHL affiliate down in San Antonio as defenseman MacKenzie Weegar was reassigned to Cincinnati Monday afternoon. Weegar had one goal and five assists and was a +2 in his first stint with Cincinnati earlier in the season. He had two goals and eight assists and was a +1 at the AHL level this season.
We drop the puck from downtown Cincinnati at 7:35pm on Wednesday night as the playoff push continues!
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