ALLEN, TX – In the midst of a winter slump, the Cincinnati Cyclones made the 14+ hour trek from the Queen City to Allen for their only three meetings with the defending Kelly Cup Champion, Allen Americans in hopes of righting the ship a bit and start crawling their way back up the standings. They needed a big weekend, and they got it.
The theme of the weekend: Whoever scores first, loses.
SATURDAY: Cincinnati got out to a hot start with goals from Andrew Yogan and Jack Downing to go up 2-0 in the first 12 minutes of the game. Allen would find themselves back in the game quickly with a goal from Nolan Descoteaux at the 14:13 mark of the 1st to pull the Americans within one. Early in the 2nd, Allen would get goals just 18 seconds apart from Chris Crane and Justin Courtnall to go from trailing 2-1 to leading 3-2 in the blink of an eye. The Allen defense would stay strong the rest of the way and weather a last minute surge from Cincinnati to take game one of the three-game set by a 3-2 final. Cincinnati outshot Allen 27-15 in the affair, but Riley Gill stole the show in goal and secured the Americans the win, stopping 25 of the 27 he faced. It was a bit of a rough night for Brandon Whitney at the other end only stopping 12 of 15 shots; that would be his only start in goal for Cincinnati on the weekend.
SUNDAY: Mirroring the start of Saturday’s game, Sunday’s game was almost identical, except with the opposite team jumping out to an early 2-0 lead. In the first 3 minutes of the game, the former Cyclone, Casey Pierro-Zabotel along with J.P. Lafontaine would put the Cyclones in an early 2-0 hole. The Cyclones would storm back quickly with two goals from Joe Wilson and Brett Wysopal in the later half of the opening period to tie it at 2. Allen would re-take the lead at the 17:29 mark of the 2nd off a fortuitous bounce off the back-boards that found the puck on Gary Steffes’ stick, and all he had to do was tuck it in to make it 3-2 Allen. When it looked like all was said and done, Jack Downing, with 12 seconds left, found a loose puck and batted it in past Joel Rumpel to tie the game at 3. Downing would be the hero in the shootout, to win it for Cincinnati by a 4-3 final. Andy Iles, in his first start in goal after being claimed off waivers last week, stopped 26 of 29 Allen shots, as well as stopping all four Allen shooters in a shootout, to earn an impressive first victory as a Cyclone.
Our thoughts are with Allen netminder, Riley Gill, who started Saturday’s game and was unable to finish due to an unfortunate turn of events that led to him colliding with Peter Quenneville, resulting in Gill suffering a concussion. Nobody likes to see that happen and hopefully, Riley will be back on the ice soon.
MONDAY: Almost exactly like Sunday, the Americans jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. David Makowski and Chris Crane would strike just 2:12 apart midway through the opening frame to again, put Cincinnati in an early hole. And again, Cincinnati would battle back with a late 1st period power play goal from Nick Huard to draw the Clones within 2-1. 3:56 into the middle frame, Zach Budish would even things up at 2. Midway through the 2nd, in his 2nd game with Cincinnati after being traded from Norfolk, Tommy Mele would find the scoresheet for the 1st time as a Cyclone, putting Cincinnati up 3-2. The Americans would not go away as in the final minute of the 2nd, Chad Costello would throw a bullet past Andy Iles to even the game at 3. Cincinnati would again come out on top, this time in Overtime, and in the form of Branden Gracel, who would avoid a stick to the face, find himself all alone in front of Joel Rumpel, and slide it under him for the game winner. 4-3 Cincinnati would be your final. Cyclones take two of the three game set and bring four points back to Cincinnati.
Coming into the weekend, Cincinnati was outside of the playoff picture, and now they’ve squeaked their way back into the picture for the time being. They now sit in 3rd place in the Midwest Division and 6th in the Western Conference.
The Cyclones finally got the monkey off their back. All season they’ve struggled away from U.S. Bank Arena, and for the first time all year, they’ve won back-to-back games on the road.
On Saturday morning, the team announced a trade that sent Mike Ratchuk to the Norfolk Admirals, in exchange for Tommy Mele and Andrew Blazek. That trade seems to have woke this team up a bit. The Cyclones team I saw in Allen this weekend, played like the team I watched October/Early November.
They’re tightening up defensively, and getting more shots as they out-shot Allen 88-64 over the weekend. Guys like Jack Downing and Nick Huard are starting to find their game again. Like I said a week or so ago, when I looked at why the club has struggled over the winter, I specifically said that guys like Huard and Downing need to start producing on a regular basis again in order to turn things around. That seems to be the case here. The next step is to be consistent with it.
Andy Iles has been a pleasant surprise in goal, winning his first two starts as a Cyclone. Perhaps Iles will be the saving grace, this team needs until the return of Brad Thiessen.
Time will certainly tell as the team has this week off until the Fort Wayne Komets come to town for a pair of games Friday and Saturday night. The games will serve as a big test to see if the Cyclones have come back to life or not as the Komets are hot right now, on an 11-1-1 run, and currently leading the Midwest Division. Iles will likely start again Friday, making his U.S. Bank Arena debut.