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With just 18 games left in the regular season, the Cincinnati Cyclones (26-23-5) look to get back on track tonight in Orlando against the Solar Bears (26-21-6) after a very tough loss Wednesday night against the Florida Everblades.

Now, the Cyclones actually played a pretty good game, even though the score would not indicate that. They matched the Everblades’ physicality, speed, and the game was even in just about every which way. The difference maker being some excellent goaltending by Everblades goaltender, Andy Iles. Stopping all 25 Cincinnati shots for the shutout, Iles stole at least three or four goals right from under the Cyclones’ noses. That’s not taking anything away from Rob Madore either. The Cincinnati goaltender once again kept the Cyclones in the game, giving them another solid oppertunity to win. Unfortunately, Madore and the Cyclones were victimized of some terrible puck luck and fell by a 3-0 score. An example of Cincy’s terrible puck luck: Florida’s first goal came off of a rebound that Madore deflected into the air right into the wheel house of Adam Brace, who batted it out of mid-air legally for the goal. Their second goal was originally a shot from the blue line that had been blocked but, it popped right to Mitch Wahl who was able to beat a heavily screened Madore on the second chance effort and man, did time go by ever so slowly as the puck was rolling over the goal line. Ironic that the first game of this Florida swing, the Cyclones came away with a 3-0 shutout win; the very next day, the Cyclones fell by a score of 3-0.

The Solar Bears have been at home and resting since their last bout with the Cyclones on Tuesday night. If there’s one thing I noticed about Orlando on Tuesday, their starts are not typically the best. They had 15 total shots through two periods on Tuesday and never really showed any form of life until the third period. Their game plan seemed to be something along the lines of “Cherry picking to victory”… which failed miserably. Almost all night long when the Cyclones were in the Orlando defensice zone, the Solar Bears almost always had a man parked outside the blue line waiting for that perfect headman pass for a breakaway. As well as the Cyclones defense has been over the past few months, they were able to easily handle the cherry picking Solar Bear and nine times out of ten, were able to eliminate the chance.

On this Thursday night, we will finally reach the conclusion of this three-in-three. You have to wonder when fatigue will set in as the Cyclones have been on a bus going back-and-forth between Orlando and Fort Myers the past couple of days playing some really tight games. Going up against a rested Orlando squad, it will definitely be interesting to see how the Cyclones respond. After tonight, both the Cyclones and Solar Bears will have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off before one final bout at the Amway Center on Monday. Then it’s back on the bus to snowy and always so wonderfully freezing Ohio!

That Monday game was originally supposed to be on Saturday but, Sir Elton John will be performing at the Amway Center this weekend, causing the game to be rescheduled for Monday. But hey, more sun time is never a bad thing, especially when home is currently blanketed by snow. And quite frankly, anybody with “Sir” in their name should always get supremacy on event dates.

Players to watch Thursday night:
Cincinnati: F Josh Shalla. He is currently the Cyclones point leader and has points in four of his last six games.
Orlando: F Denver Manderson. The former Wheeling Nailer has always been a threat to Cincinnati and has points in six of his last eight games.

We drop the puck from the Amway Center at 7:00p.m. Eastern Time.

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