MOLINE, IL – Apparently getting your name announced incorrectly during starting line-ups is good luck. While the Cyclones starters were being announced on Friday night in Quad City, the Mallards public address announcer said Cincinnati’s starting goaltender would be Michael Houser when, in fact, it was actually Mark Visentin. A bit of an unorthodox start to the evening, but it would lead to Visentin’s best performance of the season so far as he left the Mallards with a big ole goose egg on the scoreboard when the clock struck midnight on this one.
The opening period saw a dominant Quad City team as the Mallards outs-shot the Cyclones 10-5 in the frame. However, it was Cincinnati that was find the back of the net halfway through the first frame. As would become a theme throughout the night, the Cyclones took complete advantage of the Mallards defense. Brandon McNally got behind the Quad City defense, took a perfect heads up feed from Peter LeBlanc, and roofed a shot past Mallards netminder, Adam Vay, to make it 1-0 Cincinnati. From there on out, the Mallards ship had sunk and it was all Cincinnati.
The one-goal Cincinnati lead would stand as is until there was 27 seconds left on the clock in the second period. Shane Walsh would extend the lead to 2-0 with a bad angle shot that somehow snuck through the leg pads of Vay and in as the Cyclones took a two-goal lead into the locker room after 40 minutes of play.
At the 8:08 mark of the third period, the Cyclones would make it a trio. McNally again found a way to get behind the Quad City defense, took the centering feed from Walsh and buried his second goal of the night. In the dying minutes of regulation, the Cyclones would put an exclamation point on the evening with a power play goal. LeBlanc from behind the cage with a beautiful blind, behind the back pass out front to Nick Huard, who beat Vay short-side to make it 4-0 Cincinnati, which would end up being your eventual final score.
With the win, Cincinnati secures their third consecutive victory, just their second win streak of more than two games throughout the entire season thus far.
Visentin earned his first shutout of the season, turning aside all 25 Mallards shots he faced. At the other end of the ice, Vay took the brunt of the Cincinnati onslaught, stopping 24 of 28 Cincinnati offerings.
Head Coach Matt Macdonald has a history of finding diamonds in the rough through trades since he took the helm behind the Cincinnati bench almost three years ago by bringing the likes of Jack Downing and Tommy Mele to the Queen City. Just after Thanksgiving, the Cyclones dealt Kenny Ryan to Utah for Walsh and McNally, yet another trade that has paid dividend. Walsh and McNally each had three points in the victory over Quad City, and each now have 13 points in their 14 games as Cyclones since being acquired from Utah. McNally also earned the first “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” of the season with a goal, assist, and a fight all on the same night.
The big story of the night was the play of the goaltender, Visentin. This has to be a huge confidence booster for him as he was sensational between the pipes. Considering how badly he struggled at the start of the season to where he is now, it’s great to see how his play has blossomed over the past several weeks since returning from injury.
With the victory, Cincinnati now sits just two points back of the coveted four and final playoff spot in the South Division behind the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, who the Cyclones will visit down in South Carolina next weekend.
The team will have a travel day Saturday as they make the trip from Moline to Wheeling for a Sunday afternoon matinee looking to increase their win streak to four. Face-off from WesBanco Arena is scheduled for 5:05pm EST. This will be the third meeting of the season between the Cyclones and Nailers. The two clubs split the first two match-ups, each finishing in 2-1 scores.