Archive for the ‘2012-2013 Regular Season’ Category

If you’re a Cyclones’ fan the internet has been a place of doom and gloom over the past few weeks; player call ups and some lethargic play has had people thinking the worst. The last time we checked though, we saw the sky wasn’t falling, it was just rain, and as that little ginger orphan girl once sang, “the sun will come out tomorrow…” Well, it looks like the sun did come back out this past weekend as the Cyclones posted 2 big character building road wins against Greenville and Gwinnett. On paper things didn’t look good for the ‘Clones as they headed South without defensive anchor Chris Reed, and forwards Michael Pelech and Mathieu Aubin. Indeed, the Boys would fall behind but post 3rd period comebacks to pull 4 points out of the weekend. Here’s a quick side note regarding the Greenville game; Road Warriors head coach Dean Stork sent out his resident goon, Sean Berkstresser, as his final shooter in the shoot out, he does realize the shooter isn’t allowed to elbow the goalie in the head before shooting right?

The weekends’ wins keep the ‘Clones 4 points ahead of Toledo and 8 points clear of Fort Wayne in the North Division. They also, bring up and interesting talking point; the Team slumped coming out of the All Star break posting a 2-4 record despite having one of the most reinforced lineups they’ve had in some time. Fast forward to the trip South on the weekend and the Cyclones, with a roster weakened by call ups, play 2 very solid games. Did they coast through those games after the break thinking a talent filled lineup would see them through? Regardless of what the answer is, the results over the weekend, in the face of adversity, show the true character of this years team. In the ECHL, call ups happen and rosters change, but good teams find ways to win. That’s what the Boys did over the weekend.

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We know you’ve been waiting for it and here it is, the Cyclones have a magic number of 33. If you’re not familiar with how magic numbers work, here’s the deal, the number will decrease by 2 every time the Cyclones win and/0r the 9th place team (based on maximum points available) loses, and by 1 if the ‘Clones lose in OT/SO and/or the 9th place team loses in OT/SO. When the number is 0, the ‘Clones are in.

Since, Reading is the only team in the Eastern Conference that’s managed to create any separation from the field and with just 9 points separating 4th place Greenville (which actually has more points than the ‘Clones) and 9th place South Carolina, staying on top of the North Division is key to avoiding the dog fight for a playoff position. The Cyclones’ magic number to clinch the North Division is 43. The same rules apply to this number except rather than decreasing when the 9th place team loses, it decreases when the 2nd place team loses, which is currently Toledo.

The Cyclones have 22 games remaining so they do hold Their playoff future in Their own hands, but let’s face it, those are big numbers for this point in the season, so there’s no time to take a night off. What will it take to get in? Based on history 80pts should be good enough to get in, 75pts is questionable, and less than 75pts and you get an early tee time. If the Cyclones can manage .500 over their remaining games, they should be safely playing in April. What will it take to win the North Division? It’s hard to put a point total on it but 14 wins over the last 22 will put the Boys at 90 points which should do it, and that means maintaining Their current .620 point percentage.

Looking at the rest of the Conference, Evansville and Trenton are all but dead in the water, but the Cyclones still have 3 games left against each and They can’t afford to be complacent in those match-ups. Orlando isn’t far from having their bubble burst, they need to string some wins together in a hurry if they want to battle for the 8th playoff position. Wheeling and Kalamazoo are in a similar situation, a few more losses and both will get some extra nights to spend at their local casinos. That leaves the South Carolina Stingrays, they’ve got the best chance of all the teams on the outside. They’re tied with 8th place Fort Wayne, have played 2 more games at this point. On a personal note, we’re pulling for South Carolina here at CycWords, simply because we’d love to see the fan and media backlash that would occur in Fort Wayne if the Komets didn’t make the playoffs.

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So there you have it, the latest edition of CycWords. Teams slump sometimes, but it’s no reason to watch every episode of Doomsday Preppers on Netflix. it’s how they react in the face of adversity and the Cyclones have done just fine throughout the season. It will be a dog fight but there’s no reason to think the Boys won’t be playing hockey in April.

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The holiday break has come and gone. We hope you had happy holiday, merry Christmas (or whatever suits your fancy), and a safe and happy New Year. If you didn’t, watch this little nugget from the Belfast Giants. Yes, it’s old and we’ve posted it before, but it never gets old. It never fails to make us laugh, even in the middle of July when the ice has long melted.

Now that the holiday well wishing is out of the way, let’s get on to more important business. As the ball dropped in New York City, the Cyclones found themselves sitting atop the North Division. The Toledo Walleye trailed the ‘Clones by 2 points and the Fort Wayne Komets trailed by 6. The Cyclones have 2 games in hand on Toledo and 1 on Fort Wayne. The Cyclones have amassed a 19-10-2 record and, according to this weeks press release, if they manage to win Their next game before February 3rd, it will be the fastest They’ve reached the 20 win mark since the 09-10 season and 3rd fastest in club history (we’ll give you one guess which year’s team did it the fastest).

The ‘Clones have to look no further than Their improved performance on the road. Last year’s Squad faltered to a 9-21-6 (24pts) on the road while this year’s Team already sits on 18pts and looks to notch Their 9th win this Friday in Fort Wayne. In fact, the 2012-2013 Cyclones have practically the same winning percentage on the road as they do at home. The overall improvement in Team defense has to play a large role in the consistency we’re seeing from the Cyclones this season.

The Cyclones are in an interesting situation, carrying 3 goalies on the roster; 1 journeyman and 2 prospects. All 3 are affiliated making it an interesting dilemma for Coach Skalde to balance the playing time. The journeyman Brian Foster (13-4-2, 2.39gaa, .914sv%) has proven to a more than capable workhorse and is clearly the go to guy for Coach Skalde. The kids have to play as they say and both Zoltan Hetenyi (3-4-0, 2.83gaa, .887sz%) and Michael Houser (2-1-0, 3.33gaa .907sv%) will need to get more than 1 game a month to stay in game shape. Luckily, the Cyclones schedule is back loaded and with the games stacking up it shouldn’t be too difficult to get to get all of them some games. If the Boys play as They’re capable we’re comfortable with any of the 3 in the pipes. At the end of the day though, it’s about winning games and Foster has the favor of Coach Skalde, so look for him to continue to carry the load.

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The last time the Cyclones skated on the ice US Bank arena They faced the Elmira Jackals. It was a game that, by the box score, looked rather close. The ‘Clones lead 1-0 to end the 1st period but the 2nd saw the Jackals take control of the middle of the ice, they scored 3 times, seizing momentum, and the Cyclones lost control of the game. It seemed like a script, the Cyclones lead early but the game slips away in the 2nd period, sometimes they manage to come back, some times the make it close but fall short. It made us want to take a look at 2nd periods to this point in the season to see if there’s something to it or if it’s all in our heads.

The key stat we took into account was 2nd period goal differential. We also looked at 2nd period shot differential. Shot totals can sometimes indicate the amount of puck possession a team has, but shot total accuracy varies from building to building around the league so take it for what it’s worth. What we found was an interesting trend. Over 31 games the ‘Clones are +2 during the 2nd period and are -12 on shots. However, in the losses the Cyclones are -13 in goal differential and -24 in shots.  So it does seem to be some substance to the thought that the 2nd period is where the game can slip away from the ‘Clones.

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The Cyclones have played in an abundance of close games this season so it’s natural we keep looking at the special teams play. The ‘Clones power play has crept up to 15.3 percent and while that’s not great it’s quite the improvement from where it was a few weeks prior. The power play has been steady as of late in the low 80’s. It’s currently at 82.9%, which ranks 10th in the League. It’s hard to find much to criticize about a team on top of Their division and winning 64.5% of Their games, but with the number of close games they’ve been involved in, it’s hard to think of where they’d be if the special teams (especially the power play) were even a few points more efficient.

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Coach Skalde has made a couple of player transactions of late. The 1st of which was cashing in the “future considerations” owed the Cyclones by Wheeling in return for Andrew Hotham. It was a 3 team deal that saw the ‘Clones acquire Andrew Conboy from Trenton. Yes, the same Andrew Conboy that earned a game misconduct for jumping Mathieu Aubin a frew months back. He’s always been a physical player, one could argue he borders on being a goon. He’s a big kid and needs to be physical to be effective. He certainly adds a physical element to the the Cyclones that is lacking with Mattias Lindstrom on reserve, and let’s face it, with the defensive roster looking a little thin right now the Boys can’t afford to lose David MacDonald for a 5 minute stretch and while we love seeing Garret Wilson throw his weight around we’d rather have him on the ice as well. Conboy is more than just a fighter and while he may not be a game changer offensively, he certainly isn’t a liability either. He’s a big body the ‘Clones can throw in front of the net; a game plan that already yielded a game wining goal for the Team in his debut. The question is can he keep is cool and avoid the “bad” penalties he’s been known for over the years.

The Cyclones will have a new face on the blueline tonight when they take the ice in Fort Wayne after sending Maury Edwards to Florida in return for Taylor Ellington. On paper it looks like the Cyclones got the better end of the deal swapping the undrafted Edwards for Ellington, Vancouver’s 2nd round pick in the 2007 draft. However, the 33rd over all pick in the 2007 draft has spent the bulk of his career in the ECHL, logging games for Victoria, Kalamazoo, Chicago and Florida; that’s not something you typically see from a player drafted in the 2nd round. He’s got good size for a defenseman at any level as well, so what’s the catch? His write up on hockeysfuture.com might help shed some light on it:

A reliable defender, Ellington has tremendous reach and begun to develop a mean streak in the defensive end of the rink. Ellington cites his strengths as: his first pass on breakouts and his decision-making in the defending zone. His puck skills have improved but still need some work, as does his skating.

Overall, we think Ellington will be an upgrade for the ‘Clones blueline. While Edwards had shown improvement over last season he was still mistake prone; and his mistakes weren’t typically small ones, they usually lead to the red light turning on behind a Cyclones goalie.

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Finally, it’s do or die time for the NHL. We’re not going to post link after link to what’s going between the League and Players Association. If you’re a reader of this blog you probably have an idea of where things stand and know next week is the deadline for getting a deal done and starting an abbreviated season on January 19th according to Commissioner Gary Bettman. If an 11th hour deal gets done expect some changes in the Cyclones roster. On the flipside, the Cyclones could see some new faces should the NHL season get cancelled. We aren’t going to speculate on who, but listen to the Coach’s Show from 12/17/12 and you’ll hear Coach Skalde mention that he’s had contact with a few NHL players about playing in Cincinnati during the lockout. However, with so many affiliated players and so few roster spots available for free agents, signing any would have been a risky move should the lockout end. However, with the cancellation of the NHL season a very real possibility, could Skalde pull the trigger and bring in some NHL talent?

With the quarter mark of the ECHL season fast approaching we felt CycWords was long over due for an update. So without any further adieu or fanfare, here are our thoughts on the Cyclones 2012-2013 campaign so far:

  • The ‘Clones are off to a start which rivals the 2008 Kelly Cup Champion Squad who posted 17 points in Their 1st twelve games (The 07-08 Team would go on to win Their 13th game while this years Squad lossed). While the Team is chalk full of talent this year, so is the rest of the League so we have to give credit where it’s due, and that is on the shoulders of the coaching staff. When Jarrod Skalde replaced Chuck Weber to start the 2011 season he brought along a more NHL style game (ie offensive). The downside to this was ECHL caliber players seemed to struggle with this type of game and the caliber of players required would play in the ECHL long before being called up. This season, with no end in sight to the NHL lockout, it looks like Coach Skalde has a group of guys capable of playing within the systems he’s coaching. Matt MacDonald also deserves a lot of credit. He’s brought an emphasis to the defensive zone play we haven’t seen since Chuck left. If you haven’t had a time to watch Making the Cut yet, we suggest you give it a look. You’ll see a change in terminology which has brought not only individual accountability to the defensive play but team accountability as well. We know there is still a lot of hockey to be played but while a Division, Conference or even playoff birth can’t be won in October/November, they can certainly be lost.
  • We know he’s been gone for 3 seasons now, but Chuck Weber gave us so many sayings about what successful teams do, it’s hard to not keep bringing them up. Coach Weber always said he wanted his teams to be “hard to play against.” He wanted guys finishing “bumps”, blocking shots and passing lanes, and keeping their feet moving. When they played their game, they won more often than not. I see the same mentality in Matt MacDonalds defense (Shocking right?). Being hard to play against is about taking away time and space, and we see guys buying in not only at the individual level but we see it from the 5 player units on the ice. The next time you’re at a game, watch the defensive zone play; if you see shots being blocked, passes deflected and the puck being kept in safe areas, then you’re probably seeing a Cyclones win. Is it cliché? Of course, but only because it’s true. In the Cyclones 3 losses this season they have been beaten in puck battles, not blocked shots and simply been soft defensively. It’s cliché because it’s true.
  • All but 3 (1 win and 2 losses) of the Cyclones 1st 12 games have been decided by 1 goal. If not for the empty net goal scored in the losses to Greenville and Reading it would be 12 of 13. On the plus side, the Team is 8-3-2 and all of the games were winnable; except for the Reading game in which a late 3rd period goal gave the ‘Clones a chance but in reality They ere dominated by the Royals. On the flipside, The ‘Clones were a just a bounce of the puck away from being 3-8-2.
  • Special teams’ play can win games, but it can lose games as well. Chuck Weber had a formula; if the power play and penalty kill percentages are added together, 100 is about break even (special teams win as many games as they lose), 105+ and your special teams will steal a game here and there, 110+ and your special teams is winning games for you, less than 100 and you’re losing games based on special teams. Right now, the Cyclones add up to 89.2% (9.9% power play and 79.3% penalty kill), that simply isn’t good enough. Look at the scoresheet from the Evansville game, the Cyclones went 0/5 on the PP, while the Icemen score twice with the man advantage. A goal on the PP and the Cyclones are assured a point. One less goal allowed on the PK and Their assured a point. Do both and They tally another regulation win. The argument could be made for all of the games the ‘Clones have dropped points in. The Cyclones special teams…right now they ride the short bus.

All of that being said, the Cyclones are off to a great start. At 8-3-2 They sit on top of the North Division with 18 points ahead of Toledo by a point but with 2 games in hand. The 3rd place Fort Wayne Komets trail by 3 points. While the Cyclones have dropped their last 2 games They’re still in great shape for this point in the season. We’ll be keeping an eye on the special teams play. At this point that could be the key to Their success this season. If they can’t get it together, well that’s a whole different story we don’t want to think about at this point.