CINCINNATI, OH – It was the first of eight meetings between these two former division rivals. The Cincinnati Cyclones and the Fort Wayne Komets hooked up for the first time since that long, exciting seven-game playoff series last April that resulted in Fort Wayne moving on past Cincinnati and eventually, reaching the Western Conference Finals.
After losing two games of a three-game miniseries with the Manchester Monarchs last weekend, the Cyclones fell to 2-5-0 on the year and were looking for a big win against the Komets to get back in the right direction.
Before the game, Head Coach Matt Macdonald stated “Nobody in that room is happy or content with where we are”, and that’s the kind of “fire lit under your eyes” mentality the Cyclones brought coming into this game against Fort Wayne.
The Cyclones would get started off on the right foot just 3:17 into the contest. Dominic Zombo, off a long stretch pass, sped past the Fort Wayne defenseman and beat Komet goaltender, Eric Hartzell, for his team-leading fourth goal of the season to make it 1-0 Cincinnati.
Cincinnati would suffer a bit of a setback, however, as Fort Wayne would strike twice in the span of about 1:16 later in the opening frame. Cody Sol‘s point drive would be knocked down by Cyclones netminder, Mark Visentin, and land right in front of Garrett Thompson, who slammed it into an open net to tie things up at 1-1. The Komets would strike again moments later on a bit of “controversial goal”. Fort Wayne appeared to be offside, however, play went on and Bobby Shea would take advantage of the situation, cashing in to make it 2-1 Fort Wayne heading into the first intermission.
The Cyclones would pick things back up in the second period, about midway through the frame. It took 31 tries, but Cincinnati was finally able to break through on the power play. Nick Huard buried a rebound off of a Shawn O’Donnell shot to tie things up at 2-2.
Cincinnati would waste no time jumping ahead again just moments later. On a delayed Fort Wayne penalty, Eric Knodel would let loose a heavy wrist shot through traffic that found it’s way past Hartzell. In the blink of an eye, it became 3-2 Cincinnati.
Andrew Yogan would soon make that Cincinnati lead two with an incredible individual effort. He never gave up on the play and eventually capitalized on a third-chance opportunity to put the Cyclones ahead 4-2 after 40 minutes of play. This would prove to be the eventual game-winner.
Fort Wayne would pull within one at the 7:54 mark of the third period with some more puck luck. A rebound popped right to Gabriel Desjardins, Visentin had no idea where it landed, and it was deposited into an empty cage to pull the Komets within 4-3. That is as close as they would get, as Cincinnati would hand on for the victory, improving to 3-5-0 on the season.
This was a big win for Cincinnati in more ways than one.
Three names in particular really impressed tonight and appear to finally be finding their games after struggling mightily the first couple weeks of the season.
Mark Visentin stopped 19 of the 22 Fort Wayne shots he faced and has now won back-to-back stars between the pipes after dropping his first three.
Eric Knodel, who was brought in to be that “offensive defenseman” after the departure of Garrett Noonan from the organization, hadn’t had a single point through the first several games. He picks up two points, including his first goal tonight and now has three on the year.
Nick Huard had been itching to finally get his first goal of the season. And wouldn’t you know, he breaks the slump doing something he led the entire league in during last season. Scoring power play goals, while also breaking Cincinnati’s power play slump.
Cincinnati’s offense is finally starting to come together. They’ve scored three or more goals in three of the past four games. The goals are starting to come, the goaltending is starting to become more consistent, and now all that’s left is to tighten up the defense that is currently allowing three or more goals a game. Once they work that kink out, this team will finally get themselves on some more solid ground.
The Cyclones are back in action on Thursday night at U.S. Bank Arena against another former division rival in the Quad City Mallards at 7:35pm EST. It’ll be the first of a home-at-home series between the two clubs.