CINCINNATI, OH – The Cincinnati Cyclones, who were moved to the South Division over the off-season, finally got to play a game against their own division for a change when the Atlanta Gladiators made their first and only visit to the Queen City this season. It was the first of FIVE divisional games for Cincinnati since the schedule came out before the division realignment was made. In case you didn’t know, these new divisions are still pretty terrible… however, that’s an entirely different rant to be had.
This game was the dictionary definition of a seesaw battle.
It was a very fast paced start to the opening frame with both squads coming out flying. Atlanta would draw first blood halfway through the period. On the power play, it was as easy as you could possibly have it for Brock Higgs. Higgs was all alone back-door while the pass from Josh Atkinson was on the money; nothing Cincinnati goaltender, Michael Houser could’ve done there. Atlanta goes ahead 1-0.
The Cyclones would quickly answer back just four minutes later. Nick Huard, fresh out of the penalty box, was sprung on a clean breakaway and snuck it through Atlanta netminder, Matt Ginn, to draw the game even at 1-1. Late in the period, Atlanta would take the lead right back. A point drive from Tyler Shiplo, was tipped on the through by Eric Neiley and past Houser to make it 2-1 Gladiators after 20 minutes.
Just 53 seconds into the second period, Atlanta would go up by a pair. On a busted 2-on-1 opportunity, Derek Nesbitt beat Houser blocker-side to make it 3-1 Atlanta.
The Cyclones would come right back with a power play goal of their own at the 7:34 mark of the middle frame. Huard, behind the net, got the puck out front to Kenny Ryan, who slammed it into a gaping wide-open net to pull Cincinnati within one. In his Cincinnati debut after being assigned by Milwaukee the night before, Anthony Richard would pull the game even at 3-3 with his first professional goal by sneaking behind the Atlanta defense and beating Ginn five-hole.
Late in the second period, Atlanta would reclaim the lead. Shiplo was able to sneak it just under the cross-bar and in to put the Gladiators back ahead 4-3 heading into the 2nd intermission.
The Cyclones would pull back within one 2:31 into the final frame. Richard with a nice little spin-o-rama style pass to Ryan in the slot, who buries it to tie the game at 4-4. After trailing three separate times throughout the night, Cincinnati would finally get a lead on one of the wackiest goals you’ll ever see in your life.
The Cyclones have been prone to give up shorthanded goals early on in this young season. This time, they were the ones dishing out some shorthanded lamp lighters. Craig Dalrymple, from his own end of the nice, about 170 feet away, backhanded the puck out of the zone on the penalty kill and it took a funny hop past Ginn and into the net to put Cincinnati ahead 5-4. Safe to say, that’s a play Ginn will have in his nightmares for a solid month.
We were not done there. With just over two minutes remaining in regulation, Atlanta would pull even. Blake Kessel‘s shot from the blue line was knocked down by Houser, and camped out at the front of the crease was Nesbitt to bury his second of the night to tie it at 5-5 and force overtime.
Atkinson would capitalize on a back-door tap-in for the overtime winner to give the Gladiators the 6-5 win in the extra session as Cincinnati drops their third straight game.
Houser stopped 36 of the 42 Atlanta shots he faced. While on the other end, Ginn stopped 24 of 29 Cincinnati offerings.
Now, it’s time to talk about some controversy. In that overtime session, there was some more than “questionable” officiating. In about a two-minute span, Atlanta got away with a number of blatantly obvious penalties. Holding, too many men, and elbowing were all calls that very easily could’ve been made against the Gladiators in that time-span but didn’t. That sequence right there dictated the outcome of this game. Forget what happened in regulation, none of that even matters when you step into a sudden death, 3-on-3 overtime, and all it takes is one shot to end it.
I understand a majority of the officials this year are rookies and that the ECHL is a development league for officials as well. They’re human. They’re going to make mistakes. However, what transpired in overtime was simply inexcusable. I’m not one to point fingers at an official, but this game was basically hand-gifted to Atlanta in overtime.
As stated earlier, the Cyclones only play five games within their division this season. With the first two rounds of the playoffs being played entirely within the division, and you have to finish top four to qualify, these five games are arguably the most important games on the schedule and could have a significant impact later down the road, which makes it an even tougher pill to swallow.
I probably just made a lot of enemies with those last few statements but I said what I said and I regret none of it.
There are positives to take out of this though.
The star of the show for Cincinnati was that Richard-Yogan-Ryan line. All night long, those three were creating chance after chance after chance and arguably could be the fastest line in this entire league. The best part is that line has only played together for a day and it looked like they’d been together for months. Richard skated in ten games with Milwaukee to start the season and didn’t pick up a single point. He comes down to Cincinnati and suddenly he’s got his first pro goal and two points. What’s unfortunate is Richard won’t be down in the ECHL long but hopefully the Admirals will let him stay in Cincinnati for another game or two to log some more ice time.
The Cyclones will finally get some much needed rest. They have played the third most games in the ECHL at 15 games played in the first couple weeks of the season. Atlanta leads the way at 17. With them having one of the more heavier workloads in the league to start, the bumps and bruises are starting to catch up with them, so they will finally get to relax for a few days as they do not play again until Thanksgiving eve on Wednesday night when the Quad City Mallards make their second visit of the season to U.S. Bank Arena.