Crunch time has arrived. The Cincinnati Cyclones (31-29-9) will tackle murderer’s row beginning Wednesday night against the Fort Wayne Komets (46-17-6) inside Fort Wayne’s Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. It will be the beginning of a 3-game week for the Cyclones on the road to finish the season. It will also be the most important week of the season in terms of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
But, you all know the drill. Before we get to what’s at stake this evening; a quick recap of Saturday’s contest with the Evansville IceMen where the Cyclones’ home schedule came to an end, and the fans inside U.S. Bank Arena were treated to quite a show.
The clinic began just 18 seconds in as Garrick Perry found a loose puck in the neutral zone, raced up the right for a partial 2-on-1, tried to center for Geoff Irwin but, it banked off of a back-checking IceMen defenseman and in for a 1-0 Cincinnati lead. That was Perry’s first professional point and his first professional goal. Evansville is lucky that we ended the frame at 1-0. The Cyclones outshot the IceMen 16-3 and without Alex Vazzano in net, it very well could’ve been 5, 6, 7-0 Cincy after 1.
When the 2nd period began, the Clones would pick up right where they left. Three minutes in, Jack Downing would score one of the strangest goals I’ve ever seen. Downing came up the left wing, and with Vazzano hugging the left post, Downing flipped the puck into the air over Vazzano’s head and banked it off the right off post and in for the 2-0 Cincinnati lead. I don’t think Vazzano was expecting him to shoot it, he just watched that puck fly right by his face and didn’t realize where it was until it was in. Cincy would continue pouring it on as halfway through the 2nd period, a faceoff won by the IceMen got tangled in skates, Garrick Perry found it and beat Vazzano 5-hole to make it 3-0 on Perry’s 2nd of the night. That was another one Vazzano will want back. Again, he was surprised with the shot and didn’t get his pad down in time.
The Cyclones would put the exclamation point on the evening a couple minutes into the 3rd period. Geoff Irwin won the faceoff cleanly to Joe Basaraba who blistered one over the blocker of Vazzano to make it 4-0, which would be our final as Rob Madore picked up his 4th shutout of the season stopping all 21 Evansville shots.
They also got some hope from their frienemies from Kalamazoo as the K-Wings downed the Wheeling Nailers 5-2. This put the Cyclones edge for the 4th and final playoff spot in the North Division to 3 points. Wheeling still has a game in hand.
Only two playoff spots remain in the North Division. Kalamazoo, Cincinnati, Wheeling, and Indy are all fighting for the right to claim those final slots. A red hot Cincinnati team, who is riding A season-high three game winning strike has the toughest schedule to end the season of the four teams fighting. They’ll play Wednesday in Fort Wayne, Friday in Toledo, and Saturday in Fort Wayne. This will be a true 1st round preview because, no matter what happens, if Cincinnati was to advance to the postseason, they’re locked into being a lower seed playing either Fort Wayne or Toledo.
The Cyclones also could not have picked a better week to get hot. The guys are arguably playing some of their best hockey all season. At the end of this weekend is the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Can the Cyclones pull it off and knock off the Top 2 teams in the North Division and clinch a Playoff berth for the 8th time in 9 seasons? They control their own destiny and the time is now to get the job done. What a difference a week makes. This time a week ago it didn’t even look like they were going to have a chance and as of now, they occupy the 4th and final spot. Now to maintain it.
There are a total of four ways the Cyclones can clinch a playoff berth this week. The magic number currently sits at 6 and shrinks by 2 every time Cincinnati wins or Wheeling loses.
- Win out by taking all 3 remaining games and not need any outside help
- Win 2 of the last 3 and need Wheeling to lose 1 of their last 4.
- Win 1 of the last 3 and need Wheeling to lose 2 of their last 4.
- Lose all 3 games and need Wheeling to lose 3 of their last 4.
One of the four teams fighting for a playoff spot season could come to an end as well. IF BOTH Cincinnati and Kalamazoo win Wednesday night, the Indy Fuel will officially be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
Two games to scoreboard watch Wednesday:
- Kalamazoo Wings @ Indy Fuel 7:05pm EST from Indiana Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, IN
- Wheeling Nailers @ Reading Royals 7:30pm EST from Santander Arena in Reading, PA
Also, for what it’s worth: If you can remember all the way back to last season, the game the Cyclones clinched a playoff berth in was played in Fort Wayne against the Komets. Maybe, the Cyclones will have the same luck this season.
We get underway from Fort Wayne’s Allen County War Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night at 7:30pm EST for another crucial North Division bout as the push for the playoffs continues. As always, follow along on Twitter @SinBinCyclones for updates all evening long.