INDIANAPOLIS, IN – It wasn’t the start Matt Macdonald and company envisioned, on the season opener to kick-off the 2016-2017 season, the Cincinnati Cyclones dropped a 3-1 decision to the Indy Fuel.
It took just 90 seconds for Indy to get the ball running. Anthony Beauregard, out of sheer luck had a wild puck hit off him as goaltender Mark Visentin was sliding, and into the net for his first professional goal to make it 1-0 Fuel.
Just a few moments later, Cincinnati would pull it back. Breaking into the Indy zone, Nick Huard dropped it off for Eric Robinson who sniped a shot short-side on Indy netminder, Jake Hildebrand, to tie it 1-1.
That was as close as Cincinnati would get all night as Indy would pull away late in the first with a pair of goals from Alex Wideman. His first goal was another weak one that Visentin probably should’ve had. With a loose puck behind the cage, Wideman was able to get it the front and somehow stuff it under Visentin’s legs and in to make it 2-1 Fuel.
In the dying moments of the first frame, Wideman again would capitalize on a horrendous breakdown by the Cincinnati defense, and just blistering a shot from the slot past Visentin to make it 3-1 in favor of Indy, which would end up being your final score as there would be no more scoring in the final 40 minutes of play.
It was a pretty rough opening period for Cincinnati, especially Mark Visentin. He just did not look comfortable in net at all, only stopping six of the nine shots he face in the opening frame. As for everybody else, you could tell this was the first game they were playing together and they were all still relatively new to each other. A few flashes of greatness here and there, but everybody just looked out of sync for the first 20 minutes.
Fortunately, they significantly improved throughout the night. Everybody started to calm down a bit and they began to gel and look a lot more fluent in their play. Visentin got more comfortable in goal and stopped everything he saw the rest of the way, including stopping those routine saves that bit him in the first. The Cyclones biggest enemy in this game was goaltender, Jake Hildebrand.
Hildebrand was absolutely unreal. The Cyclones simply outplayed Indy throughout the second and third periods, just hammering away at Indy, and Hildebrand was up to the task each and every time. Stopping 33 of 34 Cincinnati shots, he was very deserving of the 1st star of the game honors. He even made one of the most unreal saves I’ve ever seen. An Indy turnover led to three Cyclones against one Hildebrand from point blank range. A tic-tac-toe play and somehow, someway, Hildebrand snared the chance with the glove. If not for him, that game could’ve EASILY been 4 or 5-3 Cincinnati.
Despite the first period sluggishness to get the legs back into it, I liked the Cyclones overall effort. I’m calling it now, once this team gets their legs under them and gets some more familiarity with each other, they will be a deadly bunch.
Cincinnati will have an opportunity to get some revenge on the Fuel on Saturday night when the Cyclones return to U.S. Bank Arena for the home opener at 7:35pm EST.