Sorry for the hiatus, but I have to be honest, I’m having a hard time getting excited about this Team. Don’t get me wrong, I will always stand behind the Boys and I knew this would be a bit of a rebuilding year with the turnover of the coaching staff but I’m having hard time determining what the identity of this years Squad is; all I can gather is that they want to be physical. Gone is the shut down, grind it out defensive Team we saw under Chuck Weber and in it’s place is a more open free flowing offensive oriented team. The problem is, the Team struggles with offensive and defensive consistency. Although I must admit that the recent game against Reading offered a positive sign of what the Boys are capable of despite it being a shootout loss. It seems to this blogger that the Team is stuck in limbo between what Coach Skalde wants to do and what the personnel is capable of on a consistent basis. The Team is built much like last years which didn’t set any offensive records but won game in the trenches. Until they find Their true identity as a Team They’ll continue to be a .500 hockey club.
There is still a lot of hockey to be played and the Squad isn’t in bad shape standings wise. It’s just a little over a third of the way into the Season and the Cyclones find themselves battling for the top of a tightly contested North Division. The Division lead could be on the line as the Cyclones welcome the Wheeling Nailers for a pair of games. The Nailers currently lead the Cylones by 1pt in the standings and also have 2 games in hand on the Cyclones. It’s needless to say that 2 wins by the Boys would be huge heading into the winter break.
Since about a third of the season is behind us and the play of some of the individual layers is something that keeps excited about heading down to USBA, I thought it might be fun to hand out some player assessments.
#2 Carl Hudson – Since arriving from Rochester, Carl has been in and out of the lineup as he recovers from various bumps and bruises. While not a true stay at home defenseman, he isn’t quite offensive either. He plays a little on the chippy side and his +5 rating isn’t shabby over 17 games on a team which has trouble scoring at times.
#3 Benn Olson – He’s growing on me. His skating is a liability but when he keeps it simple he’s a serviceable defenseman earning a +7 rating in 23 games. His real roll is as an enforcer and it’s a roll is one that he excels at and seems to relish.
#4 Brock Sheahan – What can I say about Brock that hasn’t been said before. He’s a solid defenseman will to block shots and works hard along the boards. His consistent defensive zone play will be key as the Season progresses.
#5 Brian O’Hanley – Brian is thriving under Coach Skalde’s more offensive game systems. He’s racked up 17pts so far this Season while still taking care of business in the defensive end.
#8 TJ Fast – Despite trailing Brian O’Hanely in scoring by defensemen, TJ is probably the most offensive of the Cyclone defensemen. He has a big shot but his skating is his best asset although it can get him in trouble sometimes when he gets caught too deep or loses the puck.
#9 Mathieu Aubin – Mathieu’s weak point was always his skating but that is a thing of the past. He has more jump in his initial 1st step to go along with more open ice speed. He’s still physical, he still chirps and oh yeah, he leads the Cyclones in scoring. It won’t surprise me if he isn’t rewarded with an AHL call up at some point.
#10 Christiaan Minella – He’s listed at 6’2″ 210lbs but plays much bigger if that’s possible. He’s effort was something that impressed me all the way back in training camp. He throws his body around with aplomb and has found a scoring touch recently. Christiaan has all the attributes that will allow him grow into top performer at the ECHL level with an AHL upside.
#11 Barrett Ehgoetz – Barrett is 2nd on the Team in scoring (Dylan Hunter is currently on assignment w/Milwaukee) and plays in all situations. He is the Captain and anchor if the Squad and I can’t really picture the Cyclones without #11 in the lineup.
#12 Scott Lehman – Scott made and instant impression on the score sheet after arriving from Rochester. He’s listed as a defenseman but has spent time up front under Coach Skalde. He’s solid in the defensive zone but really makes his mark stepping up to join the offensive rush.
#15 Sam D’Agostino – Along with Christiaan Minella, Sam was one of the players that really stood out during training camp. The kid has wheels and has been a pleasant surprise registering some big points in games. Only a +1 he needs to pick up his defensive play and he could stand to be a little more physical but you can’t argue with Sam’s effort on every shift.
#16 Ryan Del Monte – Ryan has returned to the Cyclones after fulfilling a PTO with Rochester. Ryan isn’t a guy that will light up the scoreboard but he will provide the Squad with energy and a lot of grittiness.
#17 Chris Clackson – Chris is another grinder who has shown a bit of scoring touch. His play may not always be the prettiest thing going but it’s proving to be quite effective.
#19 Brett Robinson – Unfortunately Brett has been lost for the Season to injury. Brett wasn’t scoring with the same consistency as last Season but watching him play I felt it was was just a matter of time before he had that break through game to find his rhythm. Brett was skating well, attacking the net and playing with a chip on his shoulder as always.
#23 Matt Pierce – Matt has been plugging along pretty consistently. He earned a call up to Rochester which will hopefully bring his game up to a higher level.
#24 Kevin Roeder – Despite his size Kevin is probably the most physical of the Cyclone defenseman. This Season Kevin seems to be chasing the big hits a little less than last which will help his defensive play and his durability. He’s not shy about jumping into the rush under Coach Skalde and his willingness to provide a big hit comes in handy on the forecheck during dump and chase situations.
#25 James DeLory – I’m not sure where to begin and if someone can enlighten me as to how this kid is playing AA level hockey I’d appreciate it. His skating is a bigger liability than Olson’s. He doesn’t fight as well as Olson, at least as far as I’ve witnessed. The only upside that I can find is that he’s big, strong kid. He was finally put in front of the net on the power play during the game against Reading where he did manage to wreak some havoc.
#26 Dustin Sproat – Dustin returning to the Squad was a huge addition. He’s a heady player, who plays in all scenarios. He made an instant impression on the scoresheet and while not known for fighting he plays with an edge and isn’t afraid to mix it up. He earned a call up to Milwaukee last Season and with Rochester struggling I wouldn’t be surprised to Chuck give him an opportunity at some point.
#27 Scott Reynolds – Scott isn’t scoring with the verve he was last Season. He’s another player that plays in all situations and with as much time as the Cyclones have spent killing penalties this season I can’t help but wonder if that’s effecting his offensive play. He’ll need to find his scoring touch if the Cyclones are going to be a factor down the stretch. Then again, that can be said about all of this years Squad with not a single player averaging more than a point per game.
#32 Dylan Hunter(Currently on assignment with Milwaukee) – Dylan was acquired by the Cyclones in an off-season trade which sent Brett Motherwell plus future considerations to Utah. While Brett Motherwell has spent all Season with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Dylan has been in the Cyclones’ lineup. Last Season Dylan averaged more than a point per game for Utah. This Season he’s been flirting with the point per game average. He also leads the Team at +12. Initially I thought he was a bit overrated early on but that was when the team was struggling. As the Team dynamic improved so did Dylan’s over play.
Goaltending – After a rough start which saw numerous odd man rushes and a porous defense which saw all of the Cyclones goalies struggle the team play has improved and the Cyclone net minders have shown that they are more than capable. Marc Cheverie has seen 568 shots which is near the most in the League, he ranks in the 9th among active ECHL goalies in GAA, 10th among active goalies in SV%, and has racked up 3 shutouts. Jeremy Smith has spent much of the Season with Milwaukee and has post wins at the AHL level. Chet Pickard began to find his game after struggling for months before being called up due to the injury of Nashville’s Pekke Rinne. It will be interesting to see who gets reassigned to the Cyclones when Rinne returns.
In case we don’t check in before the Christmas check out this little nugget from the Belfast Giants.