WICHITA, KS – For just the second time ever in the entire history of the two clubs, the Cincinnati Cyclones and Wichita Thunder shared the same sheet of ice for 60 minutes on Wednesday night at the INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita.
The Cyclones are beginning the new year of 2017 with essentially a month long road trip. Throughout the month of January, Cincinnati will play 12 games with only one of them being on home ice. Beginning a three-game week, the Cyclones looked to start 2017 off on the right foot after ending 2016 with a 3-2 win over the Indy Fuel.
The first period saw Cincinnati control most of the play and get most of the offensive zone time, however as the case has been with the Cyclones, those defensive breakdowns continue to haunt them late in the opening frame. Matt DeBlouw was able to split the Cincinnati defense and get a breakaway opportunity on Cyclones goaltender, Mark Visentin, and made it count to put the Thunder ahead 1-0 heading into the first intermission.
The second period would see a similar outcome as the first, although in reverse order. Wichita controlled most of the play, but it was Cincinnati that would answer back midway through the middle stanza at the 12:57 mark on a 2-on-1 rush. Shane Walsh got the pass on Peter LeBlanc‘s tape, who netted his eighth goal of the season past Wichita netminder, Drew Owsley. The two teams would head into the third and final period deadlocked at 1-1.
6:01 into the final period, another defensive breakdown would cost the Cyclones. Gabriel Gagne pick a Cincinnati defenseman’s pocket, went in for a clean look on Visentin, and beat him blocker side to pull Wichita back ahead 2-1. From there on, all of a sudden, the light switch flipped on and the Cyclones exploded for three unanswered goals in the span of 3:30.
The first coming at 10:57 of the third. Yet another 2-on-1 rush, this time it was Colin Mulvey getting the puck to Jordan Sims, who roofed it top shelf past Owsley to pull the Cyclones even again at 2-2. Just 39 seconds later, Sims would strike again.
On their seventh power play opportunity of the night, sitting at 0-for-6 on the man advantage for the night, they finally made one count. After multiple whacks at the puck, Sims got some puck luck and was able to sneak a weak shot through the wickets of Owsley to make it 3-2 Cincinnati.
Then at 14:27 of the regulation period, the eventual game-winning goal would come off the stick of Mulvey. Dominic Zombo‘s centering pass was on the money and Mulvey and buried it to put the Cyclones ahead by a pair.
Late in the frame, Wichita would make things interesting on Gagne’s second of the game. With a loose puck in the crease, Visentin had no clue where it was, and Gagne took advantage to pull Wichita within 4-3. In the dying seconds, Wichita made a last ditch effort to pull even, however Visentin and the Cincinnati defense were able to stay strong to secure the victory.
This was a game the Cyclones absolutely needed to have. After taking the bullet for the rest of ECHL last weekend by being the team Indy ended their 14-game losing streak again, Cincinnati couldn’t afford being the slump buster for Wichita as well. And being able to pull the win off with guys like Andrew Yogan, Tommy Mele, and Anthony Richard all currently nursing injures was even more vital.
When you think of names on this Cyclones team that really “pop”, you immediately jump to Yogan, LeBlanc, etc. One guy that doesn’t get noticed all that much is Sims. He has been the Cyclones unsung hero lately as he now has back-to-back multi-point games. The past stretch of six or seven games, Sims has been able to catch my attention in one way or the other. He makes a lot of smart decisions with the puck, has created numerous chances, and is now starting to get rewarded for his work and it’s great to see.
The Cyclones will have Thursday off as they make the trek from Kansas to Moline, Illinois for a Friday night with the Quad City Mallards as Cincinnati is in search of their third consecutive victory with puck drop scheduled for 8:05 EST from the iWireless Center.