CINCINNATI, OH – On Tuesday night, the Cincinnati Cyclones welcomed in their in-state rivals from northwestern Ohio, the Toledo Walleye. It would be another rough outing for the Cyclones as they dropped their third straight contest to open up this 2016-2017 campaign by a 5-0 score, falling to 0-3-0 on the year.
Not playing a full 60 minutes is what victimized this team during their first two games with Indy, and it bit them again, and in the worst way possible. The first two bites were just scratching the surface of the skin of your arm, and then the third bite brought it home and bit all the way down through your flesh and into the bone. That is how bad this game would end up being for Cincinnati.
This is a story of the good (the first period), the bad (the second period), and the ugly (the third period). Although there were some positives to take out of that game, we’ll get the negatives out of the way first, because there’s plenty of them.
The first period was actually a decent start for the Cyclones, considering the rough first 20 minutes that they had the past two games. Everybody appeared to be in the right state of mind, giving 110% on their shifts, had some form of familiarity with each other, remaining solid defensively, and matching a very skilled and stacked Toledo team in a pretty even opening frame. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got all night for Cincinnati.
Things started to go a little sour in the second period, but not too terrible. Cincinnati only surrendered one goal. Just 54 seconds into the middle frame, the defense started to lay back a bit, the Cyclones could not clear the zone, and on a third chance opportunity, Josh MacDonald was able to pot the game’s first goal past Mark Visentin to make it 1-0 Walleye. When you give a team like Toledo enough chances, that’s what happens, and the Cyclones would head into the third trailing by a single goal. Doesn’t seem too bad right, this is still within reach, right?
We have now reached the point of the night where you probably just want to turn reality off, and go sit in a dark room and just cry for several hours. Early in the final period, Alden Hirschfeld would get a shorthanded breakaway opportunity and cash in to make it 2-0 Walleye. That was the second shorthanded goal the Cyclones have given up this season… in three games. Anybody can see that’s not the sexiest stat in the world.
Toledo would then go up by a trio with a snap shot from the high slot off a drop pass; Kyle Bonis, the ECHL’s reigning player of the week honor winner, beat Visentin cleanly through a screen to put Toledo up 3-0. Bonis would strike again just mere minutes later. He was again left all alone in the high slot, and let loose a cannon of a slapshot past Visentin to make it 4-0 Toledo. Just when it felt like that was all she wrote, the Walleye would strike again just to rub more salt in the wound. With 7.3 seconds on the clock, Tyler Sikura would find twine to put the Walleye up 5-0, which would be your final score.
Last season, the Cyclones did not get shutout until game three of the first round of the playoffs against Fort Wayne. This year, the Cyclones are the victims of a shutout three games into a 72-game season.
The Cyclones also apparently have a hard time with any goalies named “Jake”. Over the weekend, it was Jake Hildebrand with the Fuel. This time, it was the Walleye’s Jake Paterson, who stopped all 39 Cincinnati offerings he faced, for his first shutout of the season.
It was another rough night for Cincinnati netminder, Mark Visentin, stopping 26 of the 31 Indy shots that came his way. Being a former goalie, I’ll be the first one to defend a goalie when he’s unfairly blamed for failure as it is in most cases. Hate to pick on the guy, but he has struggled mightily since being assigned to the Cyclones from Milwaukee. If this team is going to find that spark they really need, I think letting Joel Rumpel have a shot between the pipes won’t hurt at all.
This roster is stacked with talent and the lackluster start to the season they’ve had is mind-boggling. I get that they’ve never played together and they’re still trying to get used to each other. However, the way they’ve been walked all over, thrown under a bus, then run over by said bus 11 times in a row, is just a little concerning early on in this very young season.
Without a doubt, this team’s biggest issue is converting on the offensive chances they get. Throughout the first three games of the season, they’ve fired off 97 shots on goal… and they’ve only scored twice. Defensively, they’ve allowed 73 shots against so far and have surrendered 10 goals.
Bottom line, something needs to change. Hopefully, a few practice days before the next game Saturday night against Wheeling will help them figure things out a bit.
There weren’t many positives to look back on but I noticed a few good things out there. Forward Justin Kirkland and defenseman Teddy Doherty, who were making their professional debuts, both had solid games. Both of them were able to create some form of offensive opportunities. They played with confidence and it was really hard to tell it was their first professional game.
Jaynen Rissling is another player who had probably one of the best games I’ve ever seen him play during parts of the last three seasons he’s been a Cyclone. He made some outstanding defensive plays including breaking up 2-on-1 rushes preventing scoring chances that would’ve made the score even worse than what it was. The highlight of the night was him batting a puck out of mid-air out of harm’s way that was headed straight for the back of the net. Rissling was just a stud out there and was arguably Cincinnati’s best player in the game.
Andrew Yogan returned to Cincinnati after his short stint overseas in Austria. He actually went through a 25-hour travel day to be in Cincinnati in time for the game. Considering the circumstances, he actually did pretty well. He was doing what he does best, generating offense and bringing speed to the Cyclones offensive core. His legs necessarily weren’t moving as quick as they usually do but that’s to be expected when you just endured a 25-hour commute.
Although things may seem bleak now, there are still 69 games remaining and a lot of hockey to be played. There is still plenty of time for the Cyclones to right the ship and get things moving in the direction they should be.