CINCINNATI, OH – The Cincinnati Cyclones closed out their four-game home-stand on Wednesday night when they welcomed in the Quad City Mallards for a Thanksgiving eve affair at U.S. Bank Arena. Cincinnati took both of the previous two games and came into this one looking to keep the Mallards tamed. Both teams were on three-game losing skids heading into this game.

They often say hockey is a game of who wants it more. It was obvious very early which team wanted it and which team didn’t. I’ll give you a hint. The team that didn’t wasn’t from Cincinnati. Think of any aspect in the game of hockey that you possibly can. Whatever it is that comes to your mind, Quad City did it better than Cincinnati. The Cyclones were straight up outplayed, outworked, and any other adjective imaginable that describes it.

Right from the puck drop, Quad City absolutely dominated. The Cyclones struggled mightily just to get the puck out of their own zone. At the 6:29 mark of the opening frame, the Mallards would draw first blood. Guillaume Gelinas‘ point drive would find it’s way through some traffic and past Cyclones goaltender, Michael Houser, to put the Mallards ahead 1-0.

Quad City would strike again with a power play goal late in the period. Justin Kovacs got a cross-ice pass to Chris Francis, who was able to blast it past Houser as he was sliding post-to-post to make it 2-0 Mallards heading into the first intermission.

This would spell the end of Houser’s night. Early on in the first, he was the recipient of a heavy collision from Sam Warning (Accidental contact, mind you) as he was going hard to the net that knocked him out of commission for the time being. He stopped 11 of the 13 Quad City shots he faced. Joel Rumpel made his Cincinnati debut tending the pipes the rest of the way for the Cyclones.

Throughout the first 20 minutes of play, the Mallards held a 13-2 shots on goal advantage. The Cyclones only accumulated two… TWO shots throughout the entire frame. They were beyond fortunate that they were only facing a two-goal deficit heading in the second period. It very easily could’ve been a four or five goal deficit if not for the play of Houser.

Rumpel’s stint in a Cincinnati sweater would hit its first bump in the road 4:12 into the middle frame. Warning was left all alone in front of the Cincinnati cage; he was easily able to toe-drag around Rumpel and tuck it in to make it 3-0 Mallards.

Although, the second was an improvement from the first. The Cyclones out-shot Quad City 11-7 in the first. It still wasn’t that great. Despite the shot numbers, Quad City still dominated puck possession/offensive zone time. A majority of Cincinnati chances were one-and-done’s while the Mallards were actually able to set up shop in the Cyclones’ zone.

The third period would give Cincinnati some life. 5:47 into the final frame, Eric Knodel would notch his third of the season on the power play with a heavy wrister from the blue line that evaded Mallards goaltender, Adam Vay, and beat him glove side to pull the Cyclones within 3-1.

In the blink of an eye, Cincinnati would make things interesting by getting within one goal. Kenny Ryan would make a beautiful toe-drag around a Mallards sweater and roof it top-shelf past Vay to pull this game within 3-2. However, that is as close as the Cyclones would get.

Late in regulation, Warning’s second goal of the night would put this one to bed on a bit of a busted 3-on-2 rush. He was able to sneak it just under Rumpel’s blocker to make it 4-2 Mallards, which would end up being your final score as the Cyclones dropped their fourth consecutive game.

Goaltending wise, it was a pretty solid first game for Rumpel. Despite looking a little stiff, which is to be expected considering he hasn’t played since the preseason, neither goal he gave up was his fault and he was able to make the key save when he had to. He stopped 13 of the 15 Quad City shots he face. While on the other end, Vay was able to handle 22 of the 24 Cincinnati offerings that came his way.

This game really made me wish the ECHL tracked offensive zone time. I’m extremely curious as to how much time exactly was spent inside the Cincinnati zone. I’m fairly certain at least 70% of this game was played at the Cincinnati end of the ice. The Cyclones seemingly never ending defensive woes continue. The Cyclones defensive zone was open like an all-night gas station for the Mallards to come and wreck as much havoc as they wanted.

This game also provided a grade-A example of the biggest hole in the Cyclones’ game. Not being able to put forth a full 60 minute effort. While the first two periods of play were primarily dominated by the Mallards, the third period was Cincinnati’s. The Cyclones came to life and starting playing with a purpose again instead of the uninspired play from the first two frames. Unfortunately, only playing 20 minute hockey isn’t going to get you the win at the end of the day. If the Cyclones can turn that third period into a complete game, their number in the wins column would be A LOT higher. They have the talent to do it, it’s just a matter of getting all the right pieces moving in the right direction.

The Cyclones will have a couple days off to enjoy Thanksgiving before hitting the road for eastern Pennsylvania for a pair of match-ups with the Reading Royals on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. The Cyclones haven’t visited Reading since the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.

With Houser going down in the first, the Cyclones goaltending situation just got a lot more interesting. Mark Visentin went on injured reserve the other day nursing an injury from his last outing and is still working on getting back to game ready. Depending on Houser’s injury status and how long he’ll be out, if it’s serious at all, Rumpel is currently Cincinnati’s only healthy goalie. Rumpel was already penciled in to get the start for one of the games in Reading this weekend. However, the way things are looking, he may finally get the big break he’s been waiting for as it’s quite possible he’ll now get the start in both games this weekend.

Links to the box score and highlights are down below. That being said, it’s time to take a short break from hockey. Have a great Thanksgiving! Try not to gain more than 10 pounds, and we’ll meet again Saturday night!

BOX SCORE: Cincinnati Cyclones 2, Quad City Mallards 4 – 11/23/16


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