Last night the Cyclones put together one of Their best performances of the year and took it to the South Carolina Stingrays defeating them a 3-2 in overtime. If you missed it, you can check out the video highlights here.
In my last post I stated how large a test this was for the Team. South Carolina came in to the game with the League’s best record and an abundance of goal scorers. There is always a question when you see a team from another Division play to a good record, but this wasn’t the case with South Carolina. They have dominated in the South and have more than held their own when opposing teams from the East and North Divisions. South Carolina is a legitimate contender for another Kelly Cup Championship. They have good size, they skate very well, and play a disciplined, team oriented game.
In order to win, or even to simply play with the Stingrays, the Cyclones had to match that style of play. We know the Cyclones can be disciplined so that wasn’t going to an issue. My biggest concern was whether or not the Boys would show up from the opening drop and play for a full 60 minutes or longer. The Guys answered my concern and matched the Stingrays stride for stride.
I don’t want to make the game sound like it was all sunshine and strawberry fields. The Stingray offense generated many good scoring chances and actually out shot the ‘Clones 37-27. The Cyclones could have easily be playing from behind if it weren’t for the team defense of the Cyclones. The Boys kept up with Their stingy defensive play, harmlessly clearing the few rebounds that Robert Mayer left on the weak side. Some say you have to make your own luck in the game of hockey and the Guys worked hard in that department. It seemed like every puck that trickled around or past Mayer was either cleared from the goal mouth, Brett Robinson had a particularly good one late in the 3rd, or they went wide. On the flip side it seemed that the Boys were in the right place at the right in the offensive zone as well.
It was apparent that both teams showed up to play last night. It will be interesting to see what the rematch next Thursday night will bring. Before the Cyclones can think about that they must first deal with the rough turnaround that is a trip to Kalamazoo tonight.
The K-wings are coming off a 5 day rest and the Cyclones will be playing Their 6th game in 9 days, not to mention They’ll be dealing with the emotional and mental fatigue that comes with an overtime win against the League’s leaders. The Cyclones have dominated the season series with Kalamazoo to this point, but tonight could be a potential let down. However, the Cyclones have a 3 day break from games coming up, so if they can harness the same energy and play as they did last night for one more game, there really isn’t a reason to think a let down will be the case.
In other, possibly related observations,
- The Cyclones went with an odd line up last night, dressing 11 forwards and just 5 defensemen. Absent from the D-core was Dwayne Zinger. Zinger was active in the previous game against Charlotte after being scratched for a few.
- Speaking of Dwayne Zinger, it’s common knowledge that I’m not a huge fan of Dwayne. I do like his leadership and grit and was concerned about skating down one defenseman from the start. After watching the game for just a few minutes it was clear that, at least in my opinion, that Dwayne would not have been able to keep up with the pace of the Stingrays. I have no idea if Dwayne is nursing yet another injury or if it was a strategic move to keep both Morehouse and Benson in for grit and allowing for Mark Voakes to return to the line up to add some skill, all the while taking the lumbering Zinger out of the equation.
- It was great seeing Mark Voakes back on the ice. He played very well for a guy that hasn’t been in the line up regularly for more than a month, especially on the power play. One can’t help but wonder if he could have been the Teams 3rd All Star had been been healthy for the first half.
- I said in my last post it was going to be crucial for the Cyclones to take advantage of Power Play chances against the Stingrays. The Cyclones went 2 for 4 against the 6th best PK in the lead. The spark that started with Kilpatrick grew to a flame with the addition of Voakes. Hopefully it’s a trend that will continue.
- Robert Mayer was on his game. The big question mark at the beginning of the season was how the two young net minders would develop. Both have proven there metal. Sure there have been a few hiccups along the way and i’m sure there will be a few more, but as long as the great games keep out numbering the bad ones I like our chances.
- What more is there to say about Chris Morehouse. I love the way this kid plays. It’s great that he’s here too because it doesn’t seem that anyone wants to fight Hans Benson. It’s OK though, I haven’t seen Chris turn down a fight yet and the guys that come after him are surprised to find out how tough the kid is.
- I really don’t think anyone in the ECHL wants to fight Hans Benson. I’ve seen Hans have “conversations” with several players and they all back down from Hans and then choose to go with Morehouse a few minutes later.
- Yesterday I made the speculation that we could be seeing Chris Higgins be assigned here at some point as a result of the McLean deal. Higgins was recalled by Syracuse, Gwinnetts AHL affiliate, but no other movement has been announced. Syracuse played last night but and Higgins was not in the line up. So at this point it’s hard to say what the “future considerations” were, are or will be.
- According to the AHL transaction page the Cyclones will be without the services of forward Ian McKenzie tonight in Kalamazoo. He has been recalled to Mikwaulkee by Nashville.