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CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Cyclones defeated the Wichita Thunder 5-4 in overtime Saturday night at U.S. Bank Arena in the finale of Marvel Super Heroes Weekend. Though the Thunder outshot the Cyclones 30-18 during the match, high-quality shots were the key for the Cyclones as they won their 27th game of the season.

Wichita opened the game early with Dyson Stevenson getting his 11th of the year at just 2:49 of the first period. The visitors doubled their lead five minutes later. This time, Lane Bauer’s shot trickled in between the legs of Jason Kasdorf. Entering Saturday, the Cyclones were 4-6-2-0 on the season when allowing the first two goals.

However, the Thunder proved unable to contain Justin Danforth much longer as the All-Star dished the puck to Alex Kile who faked out Wichita goaltender Nick Riopel and put the puck between his legs. Kile’s eighth goal of the season would make it 2-1 Wichita entering the first intermission, while Danforth extended his point streak to seven games with the assist.

Danforth would go on to record two more points in the second period to help his team gain its first lead of the night. Justin Vaive’s shot was tipped in front of the net by Nick Latta past his own goalie at 3:46 to tie the game at two.

The ECHL’s leading rookie scorer broke the tie for his team on the power play with just under eight minutes on the clock in the second period. Danforth’s slapshot from the top of the circle easily beat Riopel for his 27th goal of the season.

With his second assist of the night on Danforth’s power-play goal, Jesse Schultz recorded his 800th career professional point. The 35-year-old was excited, saying,

“It’s pretty cool. I knew it coming in, but I just forgot about it and Danforth – he reminded me, my roommate, so of course he’d be the one to remember so he grabbed the puck for me. But it’s pretty special. It means I’ve been around for awhile, played a lot of hockey so it’s a nice milestone to hit.”

Latta made up for his earlier own-goal with a goal of his own with at 18:44 when he tipped Jeremy Beaudry’s point shot past Kasdorf to knot the game at three.

Daniel Muzito-Bagenda would regain the lead for the Cyclones when he recorded their second power-play goal of the night just 35 seconds into the final frame. His shot from the faceoff dot to the right of Riopel extended his point streak to an ECHL-best 11 games (5G, 14A).

As the clock wound down in the third, Wichita furiously peppered the Cincinnati net with shot after shot to no avail. Just when it appeared all but certain the Cyclones wound win a lopsided contest, Stevenson was able to tie it with 1:45 on the clock. Mark MacMillan dished the puck to Stevenson through traffic to send the game into extra time.

Danforth would break the tie and give his team the extra point at 2:22 of overtime when he teed up a shot from distance and the puck bounced off Riopel and in. He finished the night with four points (2G, 2A) and now has 28 goals and 30 assists on the season. The rookie out of Sacred Heart University was humble when asked about his success tonight.

“My linemates create a lot of room for me. I mean Schultz, since he’s a vet – 800th point tonight – guys like him and Vaive, they do really well to push guys back and give me some room with the puck. Some nights you just get lucky with the puck and score some goals. Tonight was one of those nights.”

The overtime win improved the Cincinnati Cyclones’ record to 27-18-2-0, while the Thunder fell to 25-18-3-0.

With tonight’s win, the Cyclones have taken all six available points in their 3-in-3 homestand and have given themselves breathing room over the Kansas City Mavericks in the Central Division playoff race. The Mavericks have lost three games in a row this weekend, so the Cyclones have a five-point cushion with three games in hand. Though Cincinnati has reason to be optimistic about its playoff prospects after this weekend, Danforth was more practical.

“It feels great, but it’s a long season of ups and downs, so we could be doing really well and Kansas City really bad – the next weekend it’s the opposite so we just have to keep pushing and keep playing our game, keep getting points when we can.”

Kasdorf made 26 saves in the winning effort while Riopel gave up five goals on 18 shots.

The Thunder and Cyclones rematch Tuesday night back at U.S. Bank Arena with a 7:35 p.m. EST scheduled puck drop.

Wichita Thunder observations:

Though the Thunder generated a lot of offense against the Cyclones, they were not capitalizing on rebounds or creating enough traffic in front of Kasdorf to keep the lead.

When given the opportunity twice in the third to tie, Wichita was unable to convert. After recording two power-play goals against the Fort Wayne Komets Friday night, the visitors instead gave up more quality chances while on the man advantage than they created. Not only did this give the Cyclones an opportunity to further increase their led, but it also burned valuable time for the Thunder as they had to skate back, help stop a chance, then break the puck back out and into the offensive zone.

Wichita struggled to contain Justin Danforth all night, and as they make a late-season playoff push, they have to be able to shut down, or at the very least damper, the impact of such high-octane players. When asked about his team’s play against the All-Star, captain Dyson Stevenson said,

“He’s a good player. We looked at his stats coming in and knew he’s good, obviously. He’s a rookie and he’s second in the league in scoring, so it’s tough to match lines when you’re on the road. Like I said, he’s a good player, so we definitely could’ve done a better job, but I’ll give it to him. He works hard. He’s not just skilled, he was their hardest-working player by far and that’s what got him four points.”

Stevenson stepped up for a team that is now on a four-game losing streak with two goals and one assist.

“I was playing with some good linemates. I’m not much of a goal scorer, especially the last couple of years, but I was just going hard to the net and that’s kind of my job, going hard to the net. Obviously, I got a backdoor tap in there, the goal to tie it. That’s definitely nice for me but I just try and work hard. I’m a leader, captain of the team, so I just work hard and things went my way tonight.”

On a positive note, Kevin Dufour had the secondary assist on Latta’s goal and with it extended his point streak to six games (4G, 4A).

The Thunder finish up their three-in-three tomorrow with their first-ever game in Toledo Sunday at 4:15 p.m. CST.

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