Sorry everyone, I said I was going to update the blog yesterday but I was so exhausted from Game 7 and our post game festivities that I just didn’t have it in me. Better late than never right?
In 2007-2008, the Cyclones had one of those historical kinds of years putting up 115pts in route to capturing the Brabham Cup, not to mention every other Trophy in the League sans 2; they weren’t allowed to win the National Conference Championship and David Desharnais should have won the Sportsmanship Award.
This year there were no regular season awards to lay claim to, no division title and a playoff seed that would have them face South Carolina and Charlotte without a home ice advantage. None the less, this years Squad will go down in history as the 1st team in ECHL history and just the 6th team in professional hockery to win a 7 game series after falling into a 3 games to none hole.
During the 1st two series against South Carolina and then Charlotte the Cyclones built up the statistical anomaly of winning had every odd numbered game while losing every even numbered game. The Boys had never defeated the same team in consecutive games, nor had They lost to the same team in consecutive games. And then came Reading…
The Royals came to town and were everything they were billed up to be. They were skilled and had a potent power play that had no trouble capitalizing on the oppositions mistakes. Defensively, they were more than capable and when there were breakdowns there was Matt Dalton in net to erase them.
The Cyclones played well enough to win the 1st 2 games of the series, but couldn’t solve Dalton and ultimately headed to Reading down 2-0 in the series. Game 3 felt like a must win for the Boys but again, Dalton came up big. Again, it wasn’t that Reading was out playing the Cyclones, it was more that Dalton was “in the zone” and even though the Royals had all the momentum it just felt like if the Cyclones could just crack Dalton they could extend the series. They only problem was there was no margin for error.
In game 4, Dalton crack and when he did the flood gates opened. The Cyclones, after scoring just 5 goals in the 1st 3 games of the series lit Dalton up for 6 goals to force a game 5. The 6 goals were scored by a Cyclones line up, which on paper, looked much less potent. The Cyclones leading scorer, Jimmy Kilpatrick, was made a healthy scratch by Coach Weber. During a pregame interview Coach said the decision was made because Jimmy was playing outside of the Team Dynamics and he would be back in the line up when he had his “attention”
In Game 5, Chuck made another surprising decision; not only was Kilpatrick still sitting in the stands, but playoff stand out Jeremy Smith would be replaced in goal by Robert Mayer. The offense continued to convert, putting 4 in the back of Dalton’s net before he was pulled to start the 3rd. Mayer was stellar, as was the defense in front of him. Mayer would post a 29 save shut out to send the series back to Cincinnati.
Oh, and then there was the brawl. Reading was obviously a frustrated team and by the 3rd period went from frustrated to frazzled. The Video doesn’t really show how things got started, but from putting together different accounts here is a composite account of what went down. Royals Captain Dinos Stamoulis began slashing every that moved. Ryan Del Monte took exception and slashed at Stamoulis’ stick, which was being waved at chest/head level. Del Monte was then atacked from behind by 2 other Royals players. At that point, everyone grabbed a partner and the chaos was on. Both teams would be fined, the Royals would have Stamoulis and Kwiet suspended for 1 game each and Cyclones lost the services of Ryan Del Monte as a result of the frackous.
Game 6 told the story of the series as far as I’m concerned. Reading came out of the gate quickly and jumped to a 2 goal lead. The Reading players celebtrated each goal as if it were a Championship clincher. The Cyclones then struck back, scoring 3 goals in a span of around 1:30. Reading did tie the score late in the 1st but he seed of doubt had been sowed. I can remember looking at the Reading bench after Barret Ehgoetz’s goal at 10:26 of the first, the Royals players sat, seemingly emotionless, their faces dead pan while their coach stood there statching his head. Even when Reading tied the game late in the 1st there was little sign of positve emotion. During the 1st intermission, while Larry Courville was possibly still scratching his head, Cyclones’ Coach Weber was making another excellent coaching move. Robert Mayer didn’t have the greatest period giving up 3 goals on just 7 shots so Chuck decided to go with Jeremy Smith to start the 3rd and the shutout streak began.
Game 7, saw Smith continue in net and he continued to stimy the Royals. Dalton was strong in net, but the ‘Clones converted when Ehgoetz found the back of the net on a very nice pass from Dustin Sproat. It was all the ‘Clones would need as they continued to shut out the now struggling Reading offense.
The thing that I will remember from Games 6 and 7 were the crowds. While not the largest crowds to take in a playoff game at USBA they were two of the loudest. The only crowd with more energy that sticks out in my mind was Game 6 of the Finals in 2008. The greatest part was that it seemed everyone was there for the game. Sure, cheap beer is great but there was history being made and people seemed to know it.
Next up is Idaho, who as the regular season National Conference Champions recieved a 1st round playoff bye and have only played 10 games to the Cyclones 19. I don’t want to go into a rant on the playoff formula but I will say that the only thing worse than what they came up with would have been to just let all 8 National Conference Teams in. There had to be a better way.
Here are some things to keep an eye on:
- Idaho’s Adam Huxley and Cincinnati’s Hans Benson could provide some fireworks this series. Although, unless completely necessary Hans should try to keep his hands to himself. Benson plays a regular shift and has potential to contribute offensively, whereas Huxley is only really suited to collecting penalty minutes.
- Where oh where is Jimmy Kilpatrick? Does Chuck have his attention yet? I would look for a refreshed and motivated Kilpatrick should he return to the line up.
- The French express are going to have to pick it up. Mathieu Aubin has picked up his offensive game late in the Reading series and that needs to continue. Maxime Lacroix has been a streaky scorer this season. He plays as hard as anyone but sometime the points just don’t come. Now is as good a time as ever for him to start a scoring streak.
- The series will showcase some of the leagues best goaltending. Idaho will be going with Rejean Beauchemin, who has only played 3 playoff games thus far and hasn’t looked stellar but his regular season numbers indacte he is quite capable. The Steelheads rookie sensation Richard Bachman is currently on assignment in the AHL. His availabilty could have a big effect on the series outcome. The Cyclones also boast 2 qualtiy netminders, who, thus far, haven’t shown any signs of playoff pressure effecting them.
- Secondary scoring will be key, as it always in the Playoffs. On paper, Idaho looks similar to Reading in that they get the bulk of their scoring from just a few guys. On the other hand, the Cyclones only have 1 player averaging more than 1 point per game, but it seems that every game the Boys get scoring from somewhere. Guys like Sproat, Eghoetz and Van Guilder will have to keep it going, but scoring from guys like Will Ortiz and Josh Heidinger can make the difference in the Series.
- Special teams will continue to be a hot topic. The Cyclones’ power play has improved lately but still isn’t great. Idaho is converting at just under 20% so staying out of the box for the Cyclones will continue to be key. The PK’s look to be fairly comparable with the ‘Clone killing just over 80% and Idaho killing just under 80%. Interestingly, both teams have posted 4 short handed goals.
- The numbers really don’t mean a thing. Since there was no interconference play this season, there really isn’t a way to compare the teams stat wise. Factor in that Idaho hasn’t played as many games as the Cyclones and those numbers become meaningless. In the past when American Conference teams would travel out west I could look at records and stats and make assessments accordingly. This season all we can really do is wait for them to play the game.