The weekend didn’t workout quite the way we were hoping but we’re in the playoffs and that’s what matters. Before I look ahead to playoff rosters and the 1st round match up with South Carolina, I want to mention Johnstown again. Mike Mastovich, who has been covering sports for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, the Chiefs in particular, penned two more articles which I feel are a must read. The Chiefs history in the ECHL goes back to it’s inception and includes some “Slapshotesque” moments, as well as moments marking Johnstown’s longevity in the league. I was glad to read that Johnstown packed the War Memorial on Saturday night. There are a lot of memories in that old building and as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m glad I got to take in a game there. I’ll never forget seeing the Hanson brothers line up against our boys and the look on Cedrick’s face after being “taken out.” It was all a show and Ceddy played his roll perfectly and was grinning ear to ear. Nor will forget seeing David Desharnais negotiate the “step” the players had to manage to get to and from the ice each period (let me just say that it looked to be about half his height.) It’s not unusual for the back up goalie to sit somewhere besides the bench in the game of hockey but Johnstown took it to a whole new level putting the back-ups on a folding chair amongst the crowd. I can still picture Dov Grumet-Morris sitting in the crowd entertaining the youth of Johnstown while the Cylones won yet another game, I could go on and on and I only went to 2 games there. There is talk of Wheeling playing a handful of games in Johnstown next season. If you’re a fan of minor league hockey and you’ve never been, you should try to make it if the Wheeling deal goes through.
OK, now onto to what you’ve really surfed over to read about, THE PLAYOFFS!
The Cyclones ended the Season 44-25-1-2 for 91 points which was 3 points short of winning another North Division Banner. That honour will go to Kalamazoo this Season. I still think the inability to get the close games to OT really hurt the squad in the standings this season. Adding fuel to my argument is this little nugget; the only team with more wins than the Cyclones was Idaho, who won 48 and the Cyclones mere 3 points from OT rank dead last in the League. If there is a positive to take from this it’s that the Cyclones are great at winning games that go to extra time and in the playoffs where only the win matters.
The Boys 91 points earned them the 5th seed in the playoffs and a date with the South Carolina in the 1st round. Odds are the Cyclones will not have a home ice advantage for any round of the playoffs (I can not find information on how home ice will be determined for the Finals, whether it will be according to Conference seeding or more fairly based on point totals.) but for the 1st round best of 5 series I would rather not have home ice but get to open at home. It actually gives our Boys a bit of an advantage from a travel perspective as both teams will have to make the trip to South Carolina on Thursday but the Stingrays will have to make the trip north to start the series. In a condensed 5 game series that will see the teams potentially play 5 games in just 6 days the extra day of travel could be an issue.
As far as the match up goes, many were worried about a match up with Toledo, but I was concerned with South Carolina, despite the head to head records. It’s true the Cyclones went 3-1 against the Stingrays this season but we never really faced them with the full line up and goalkeeping that put them on top of the South Division early on. The Playoff rosters are due in Monday afternoon but they probably won’t be announced to the public until just before game time Tuesday. I’m not sure how many call-ups and injuries the Stingrays are dealing with right now, but if they are healthy and have players back from recall they will be a different team than the Boys have faced previously.
The Cyclones will have some decisions to make as far as Their roster goes. Chuck added two more college kids, Josh Heidinger and Will Ortiz, for Saturdays game at Wheeling which I think raises some questions about the health of a few players. Since we are rolling into the Playoffs I’m not going to name any names other than the players who I know to be out of the playoff picture as far as potential injuries go. The Cyclones roster currently has 23 names on it and Chuck gets to select 23 players (20 active, 3 inactive) to the playoff roster. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Dwayne Zinger will not be healthy enough to make the cut and Jamie Coghlan is a long shot. That opens up 2 spots in the line up. The Cyclones have 6 players on assignment in the AHL Reid Cashman, Mark Van Guilder and Chris Muller are in Milwaukee, Brett Motherwell is in Bridgeport while Maxime Lacroix and Robert Mayer are in Hamilton.
Chuck only has 6 healthy defensemen on the roster right now so logic would indicate that at least Brett Motherwell or Reid Cashman will be on the roster, if not both. Adding them both would give Chuck 8 D-men to work with assuming both make it back.
I think the biggest questions are up front, eight D-men leaves room for 13 forwards. My guess is one of the new guys makes it, but not both. There could be some questions regarding health of a few guys and the status of both Lacroix’s and Van Guilders assignments in the AHL. Montreal and Hamilton have had another bout of injuries so Lacroix’s return could be questionable. Van Guiler will most likely be back but, again, it’s a question of when. The only name on the list that is probably out of the picture is Mueller. I’m sure Chuck is in close communication with both Hamilton and Milwaukee in regards to when we might see the players in question.
With the exception of the new guys I think everyone on the current roster should make the playoff roster unless injured. Unfortunately, I think the addition of 2 new players at this point indicates that there is an injury that will keep someone off the playoff roster, and/or either Van Guilder or Lacroix are not expected back.