Posts Tagged ‘kelly cup playoffs’

If you’re a Cyclones fan the final week of the season probably left you a little wanting. The Teams performance on “Fan Appreciation” weekend wasn’t what we had come to expect based on the previous 70 games. We saw a team taking it easy, just going through the motions, and a goalie that looked a little fatigued. Despite this, the Boys created chances and on Friday night it was enough to squeak out a win. On Saturday, it was a different story. The ‘Clones had Their chances but Evansville goaltender James Reid had all the answers and probably played his best game of the season. In Their own end, the typically stellar Cyclones looked rather lackluster and most Icemen scoring chances converted. It was a disappointing way to end the regular season.

However, all season long we’ve heard the Cyclones push the mindset to “keep looking up.” They clinched the North Division title and had an outside shot at winning the Eastern Conference but that flew out the window with the loss to Reading on March 16th. They were assured of the 2nd seed during Their southern road trip so what did they really have to push for? They could neither move up nor down the standings. They could only watch while the dog fight for the remaining playoff positions were sorted out. Sure there were a few guys that were trying to play their way onto the playoff roster, but for the most part the final games were more about staying healthy over anything else.

Despite the slide at the end of the season the Cyclones finished the year 42-22-8 for 92pts. They topped the North Division and finished 2nd in the Conference. They saw quite a bit of roster turnover through the year, but maintained winning consistently. The real turnaround happened on the road where the ‘Clones posted a record of 20-11-5 for 45 points. It was Coach Skalde’s best year as head coach. It was good enough to earn the John Brophy Award as the ECHL’s coach of the year. We sure there’s some of the ‘Clones fan base that are rolling their eyes at this but the turnaround is astounding, and the award is well deserved. Congratulations to Coach Skalde and the Cyclones for a great regular season but it all means nothing now.

On Monday, a click over to the ECHL’s standing page displayed zeros. No wins, no losses, no power play conversions, and no penalty kills; all the the regular season accomplishments are gone. The only thing left is the ‘Clones 2nd place finish which assures them home ice advantage against all conference foes but Reading, which they can’t face until the Conference Finals. It all comes down to the next 2 months, 4 seven game series, a race to 16 wins. Only one team will end their year with a win. This is the time of year we live for as hockey fans.

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Before we dig into the Cyclones’ playoff roster let’s take a quick look at who didn’t make it.

Tyler Fernadez (F) – Tyler was the proverbial warm body. In game he was rather unnoticeable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s not going to get you on a playoff roster either.

Jeff Rose (G) – We shouldn’t even have to explain this one.

J.T. MacDonald (F) – Family ties aren’t enough sometimes. He played well, but given the a la carte menu of players in the AHL that Skalde can choose from there’s just not room for a player of J.T’s caliber.

Jeff Winchester (D) – Jeff was a fill in player and performed admirably. He made good decisions and rarely got himself in trouble. The addition of Foss coupled with the defensemen playing in the AHL which can be added made Winchester expendable.

David Nicoletti (D) – Nicoletti came over from Europe mid-season and was solid for the ‘Clones. We think that had he stayed healthy he may have had a shot at making the post season roster but a foot injury from a blocked shot sidelined him down the stretch. He came back and played in the Friday night win against Evansville but was a scratch Saturday which makes us think he just wasn’t ready to come back and with the way the Cyclones play defense, filling shooting lanes and giving up the body to block shots, the last thing the ‘Clones need is s defenseman with a tender foot that any moment could block a shot and be back on the shelf.

Andrew Condoy (F) – In a regular ECHL season Conboy makes the roster. Since joining the Team he’s filled his roll well and aside from the Nathan Moon incident, avoided the goon like actions that he’s sometimes known for. Also, the addition of Justin Vaive made Andrew expendable.

Anthony Luciani (F) – Anthony being left off the list is probably the biggest surprise of the bunch. He’s a skilled guy but was hampered by injuries much of the season. While it’s a surpise, it’s not shocking with the likes of Hazen, McFarland, Shalla and Wilson all available for the post season.

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The ECHL officially released the playoff roster earlier this week. The parameters are pretty simple; there’s a 20 man active roster and 3 reserve spots. However, they added something new this season, presumably due to the number of players that started the in the ECHL because of the NHL lockout. Essentially, teams got to submit a list of players that were playoff eligible but on assignment in the AHL. These players can join the team any time before the Conference Finals. A full list of the playoff rosters and a more detailed description of the roster rules can be found on the Leagues website.

As for the Cyclones, they’ve currently named 8 defensemen, 10 forwards, and 2 goalies to the roster. Additionally They have 6 players on the “eligible” list. As they’ve played all year, here’s the breakdown from the goaltenders forward:

Goal tenders (2):

Brian Foster – He was a stud in 2010-2011, strapping the Cyclones to his back, dragging them into the post season. His sophomore year with the Cyclones was a bit lackluster. While we don’t think he’s shown the same for thus far this season as he did in 2010-2011, he hasn’t had to. The defensive play in front of him, has been the core of the Teams success. If Foster can simply maintain the form he had to start the year, the Cyclones will be tough to beat. If he can find the form he had in 2010-2011, even better!

Michael Houser – Houser has carried the load for the last 2 months. He looked sluggish in the final regular season game but with the week off before the 1st playoff game, he should be ready for Friday night in Toledo.

Defense (8):

Taylor Aronson – Aronson’s play over the course of the year earned him some AHL time and a place in the 6 man rotation.

Taylor Ellington – Ellington joined the ‘Clones via a trade with Florida. He’s got some offensive upside, especially on the PP. He’ll see plenty of time  in the 6 man rotation as well.

Jeff Foss – Foss missed most of the year due to injury. He was assigned to the ‘Clones just in time to get his 5 games in. He’s a solid defenseman, with good size and ability. We guess he’ll be in and out of the 6 man rotation depending on how his injury reacts to each game.

David MacDonald – MacDonald has been one of the core guys on defense all season. It earned him a place on the playoff roster. His play has slipped a little over the last few games though. He’ll probably be watching more games than he plays, especially given the other available defensemen.

Josh McFadden – McFadden spent a big chunk of the year with the ‘Clones. We like his offensive ability but he’s been a little soft on the puck exiting his own zone at times. We’ve got him penciled in as the 7th defenseman.

Chris Reed – Chris is a solid stay at home defenseman. His play earned him some AHL time and a spot on the post season roster. Stay at home type defensemen become even more important in the post season so look for him to log plenty of game time.

Charles Olivier-Roussel – He’s got size, strengths and skating ability. He’s easily one of the top 3 d-men on the team.

Brian O’Hanley – The question here is, which “O-H” is going to show up? We all know how he’s capable of playing, but we also know how he’s capable playing. If he plays as he did to start the year or as he did in 2010, he probably rates as the most complete defenseman on the team. If he plays like he did in 2011-2012 or he did this season, post NHL lockout, we don’t want him on the ice.

Forwards (10)

Mathieu Aubin – He’s the captain. He’s got a reputation for being a bit of a goof but his ability at the ECHL level is a given.

Josh Birkholz – He’s got got speed and can finish. He spent the some time recently with San Antonio so hopefully some time up in the AHL will make him that much better.

Mike Embach – Mike made a commitment to this team early in the year when he chose to remain a Cyclone even though it meant being placed on 21 day IR. He’s scored some big goals lately. We’re glad to see his commitment be rewarded with a roster spot.

Dan Eves – What more can be said about Eves? Coach Skalde has said it doesn’t matter who he’s lined up with, Eves makes them better players. He’s played all 3 forward positions not to mention defense when needed. Heck, he might even strap on goalie pads if asked.

Trevor Lewis – Acquired in a trade with Reading, Trevor is a motivated player. He’s got good hockey sense and, after missing time with injury and the failing to break into the Royals lineup, he’s got fresh legs. Lewis is a guy to keep an eye on this post season.

Mattias Lindstrom – The Big Swede. He may not score much but he’s a physical presence and probably one of the best shot blockers on the team.

David Pacan – David took home some rookie team honors and has game changing ability.

Michael Pelech – We’ve had a love/hate relationship with Pelech this season. We know what he’s capable of, but it seemed to up that his decision making has slowed down a bit. That being said we wouldn’t want to head into the post season with out him. Even when he’s a bit off, he’s still capable of putting some points on the board.

Matt Smyth – Matt has been on a tear down the stretch. Brought in as a gap fill player, his contributions couldn’t be ignored. It earned him a roster spot. And while he may not make it all the through the playoffs, we’re glad to see him get a shot.

Justin Vaive – Vaive’s addition made Conboy expendable. He plays a similar to to Conboy but has a better skill set.

Eligible List (6):

Garrett Wilson(F), Josh Shalla(F), Cam Reid(F), John McFarland(F), Jonathan Hazen(F), Anthony Bitetto(D)

All 6 of these guys are game changing additionsm but the ‘Clones will probably have to do without any of them until after, or at least late in, the 1st round. Also, if you do the math you see the ‘Clones have 26 potential players which means if all 6 eligible players return, 3 from the current roster will have to be cut or recalled if affiliated.

We venture that with San Antonio playoff chances improbable, Wilson, McFarland and Hazen are the most likely to be re-assigned. Once the AHL releases their “Clear Day” rosters, there is an outside chance of seeing Cam Reid, but with Milwaukee in the heat of battle for a playoff spot, it’s unlikely.

***

So there you have it, your CycWords look at the ‘Clones playoff roster. We’ll be back with a look at the 1st round match up with Toledo and look around the League before Friday.

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As we get ready to roll into March and the real push for the playoffs we thought it would be good to bring up the magic numbers that will give everyone an idea of where things stand. First and foremost the Eastern Conference standings currently look like this:

1 *Reading Royals 55 35 15 2 3 75 0.682 192 165 0-2-0-0 7-3-0-0 818
2 *Greenville Road Warriors 58 35 20 2 1 73 0.629 197 157 3-0-1-0 6-3-1-0 805
3 *Kalamazoo Wings 56 30 20 2 4 66 0.589 202 188 9-0-0-2 8-0-0-2 926
4 South Carolina Stingrays 57 32 21 2 2 68 0.596 163 163 3-0-1-0 6-2-1-1 771
5 Florida Everblades 59 30 25 1 3 64 0.542 200 185 0-1-1-0 4-4-1-1 1045
6 Wheeling Nailers 56 29 24 0 3 61 0.545 185 166 0-8-0-1 1-8-0-1 932
7 Elmira Jackals 55 25 23 6 1 57 0.518 200 200 3-0-0-0 5-3-1-1 1169
8 Cincinnati Cyclones 55 24 22 6 3 57 0.518 159 180 0-1-0-0 5-4-0-1 1020
9 Gwinnett Gladiators 57 25 25 2 5 57 0.500 167 198 3-0-0-0 5-5-0-0 1002
10 Toledo Walleye 55 25 26 3 1 54 0.491 179 206 0-3-0-0 4-6-0-0 956
11 Trenton Devils 57 21 31 1 4 47 0.412 179 208 0-3-0-1 4-5-0-1 995

 

With that out of the way, here’s how the “magic numbers” break down:

Reading – 14

Greenville – 16

Kalamazoo – 23

South Carolina – 21

Florida – 25

Wheeling – 28

Elmira – 32

Cincinnati – 32

The “magic number” represents the number of points needed to reach 89 points which is one more than Toledo (currently in 10th place but can potentially score more points than Gwinnett bases on 2 fewer games played). The number decreases by 2 each time the team wins or when Toledo (or whichever team is in 9th place based on total available points) loses. The number decreases by 1 when the team or 9th place team loses in OT/SO. When the “magic number” hits 0 the team can not finish lower than 8th and is in the playoffs.

There is also a “tragic number” for those teams on the outside looking in. The “tragic number” is essentially the number of points the team is away from being eliminated. They are as follows:

Trenton – 22

Gwinnett – 32

Toledo – 33

The “tragic number” reduces by 2 when the team loses or the 8th place (currently Cincinnati) wins in regulation and by 1 when the team loses in OT/SO or the 8th place team loses in OT/SO. When the “tragic number” hits 0 the team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

For example, if the Cyclones beat Toledo in regulation, the ‘Clones “magic number” becomes 28 based on the Cincinnati win and Toledo loss. Toledo’s “tragic number” would become 18. That’s the proverbial 4 point game that we talk about at times.

It’s important to keep an eye on the standings to see where teams stand, as the 8th and 9th place teams will change and the “magic/tragic” numbers will then be effected by other teams.

Get it?

Here’s how the schedule breaks down for the battling for the last few playoff spots:

CIN TOL ELM GWT TRE
Games remaining 17 17 17 15 15
Games left with group 5 8 7 5 9
Games left with CIN X 4 0 1 0
Games left with TOL 4 X 1 0 3
Games left with ELM 0 1 X 2 4
Games left with GWT 1 0 2 X 2
Games left with TRE 0 3 4 2 X
Games left with REA, GRV, KAL 8 5 8 6 11

So what does it all mean?

For Cincinnati, while the Division isn’t mathematically out of reach the ‘Clones will need loads of help and is unlikely. The ‘Clones could climb as high as 5th but given the inconsistent play that has plagued Them throughout the season it is much more likely for them to hold onto 8th or perhaps climb to 6th or 7th. The 3 games with Toledo will be key and could determine whether the Fish or the ‘Clones make a run for the Cup. The way the schedule plays out, the Kalamazoo Wings are quite the allies of the Cyclones as just about any K-Wings win (provided they aren’t against the Cyclones) will benefit the ‘Clones’ playoff chances.

Toledo will get Trenton 3 more times before playing 5 of 7 against current Division leaders. It makes those 3 games must wins for the Fish. The 3 game series with Cincinnati at the end of March could be even more important for the Fish than the ‘Clones. Toledo may have to take 2 of 3 to get in.

Elmira has been on a roll since firing Malcolm Cameron (go figure!) and hold the tie breaker with the ‘Clones based on wins (25 to 24). The Jackals have 4 more games with Trenton which could go along way towards getting them into the post season. However, time will tell if the Jackals current form is just a surge as a result of Cameron’s firing as often happens after coaching changes or if they’re really making a run. If they really have found their stride, they should sneak in.

Gwinnett probably has the toughest road to the post season of the teams battling for the final few spots. The Gladiators have played 2 more games than all but Trenton. Also, 11 of their remaining 15 are either against teams fighting for their playoff lives (5) or division leaders (6). The 5 games with the teams in the playoff battle will be must wins, any points dropped here could seal their early tee times.

The Trenton Devils are all but dead in the water. While they are good against the teams in the playoff battle (10-8-1), 6 of their remaining games are against Division leaders. They have a mathematical chance of getting in but they have to turn it around now and have no room for error.

The Wheeling Nailers should make it in. However, if their current struggles continue, which is very possible, it could get dicey near the end. Wheeling’s success is tied directly to their roster and with so many guys being called up, and finding success in the AHL, even if they make it, they aren’t likely to hang around long unless they get those guys back.

Reading, Greenville, South Carolina, Kalamazoo and Florida are all in baring monumental collapses down the stretch.

So there you have it. We’ll be trying to update the Cyclones’ magic number for you as it changes. We’ll be back tomorrow to look back at February and weigh in the the trades and other personnel changes. We’ll also be bring you the first draft of our playoff predictions later in the week.

-Mike-

We have a lot of good things in store for our faithful readers this summer but before I get to those I thought I’d take a quick look back now that I’ve had a chance to let it set it in. The ECHL has already posted a very nice article on all the accomplishments of the Cyclones’ 2nd Kelly Cup in 3 years, John “the Hammer” Hamel has typed up a nice little game recap and even the Enquirer had a nice little story. It’s all very good reading.

I commented in blogs very early in the Season about this Teams resiliency and that theme continued into the post Season. This Team didn’t always play the prettiest hockey, but they always worked hard. Coach Weber summed this Team up best when he told the Enquirer, “This team, we were a bunch of workers. There was no superstar on this team. What I took the most pride in was that they found a way to win when people thought they couldn’t.” It seemed that every night a different player was stepping up. If a player struggled one night, it seemed that he’d be the hero the next.

The Cyclones probably had the most difficult road to the Kelly Cup Finals. One that saw them take on last years champion South Carolina in a 5 game series that left little room for error. The they moved on to a 7 game slug fest with Regular Season Conference Champion Charlotte. Their reward for winning that series was a date with Reading, who had one of the most loaded rosters in the playoffs, for the Conference Final.

I never doubted this Team’s work ethic or resolve, but I will admit I questioned how much the Boys had left in the tank when they returned to Cincinnati for Game 6 against Reading, but as always they found that little bit extra and when they scored 3 times in about 1:30, I knew They would complete the come back and march on to win a bigger piece of hardware.

The research I did on Idaho going into the Finals told me that they weren’t much different from teams such as Kalamazoo and Reading. After watching the first 2 games of the Series I didn’t really see anything in the Steelheads’ game to make me think any different. The Cyclones were far from a physical team and it seemed that Idaho struggled with it. It makes me wonder how Idaho would have reacted if they would have played the likes of Charlotte. To Idaho’s credit, they did adjust. It was a clear that it was going to be a Series of closely played games.

The Idaho press had the Steelheads picked as the odds-on favorite, but why? Sure, Idaho was the Brabham Cup winner and they were near the top of the League in several categories, but let’s face it, with the lack of inter-conference play this Season those stats and that record were a bit stacked; when a team plays only 7 teams over the course of a 72 game season the numbers can become a bit skewed. Yes, the Cyclones played a division heavy schedule but They did play every team in the American Conference at least once. I should also point out that at one point the Cyclones were battling for a Conference regular season title and Their #5 playoff seed was a bit misleading. That must have been missed by the Idaho press.

Idaho made a big deal of being without Tyler Spurgeon and goalie Richard Bachman. However, Idaho goalie Rejean Beauchemin was no slouch and actually had numbers comparable to ECHL Goalie of the Year Todd Ford. And if they want to talk about Tyler Spurgeon, I’ll raise them Scott Reynolds and Matt Pierce, both of which were injured and saw little or no playoff action, yet were key members of the Squad.

When it was all said and done, the Cyclones were simply the better TEAM. They were a group of players that bought into a system and believed in the words on Their playoff t-shirts which read “BIG WE, little me.” It was a tightly battled Series but  resiliency and composure saw the ‘Clones persevere.

Before I move on to what we have in store for you this summer, I want to give a shout out to Jason Jozsa. Jason was on the losing side of the Cyclones 2008 Kelly Cup Championship and it was good to see him lift the Cup. Congratulations Jason!

Ok, you’ve put up my ramblings this long so here’s what to look for this summer:

-The 1st annual CycWords Awards poll will be up soon. We’ll let you know, so be sure to vote.

-Every summer for the last four years Cyclones fans have been asking themselves, “Will Coach Weber be back?” We don’t have any inside info, but we are going to do our best to keep a tally of open coaching positions around the game. The first installment of “Weber Watch 2010” will be up soon.

-Every so often there is talk amongst fans about the Cyclones joining the AHL. Dannielle and I will give our comments on the pro’s and con’s of such a move.

-Of course we’ll be doing our best to stay on top of player signings and other news regarding the Cyclones and affiliate news that effects the Team.

-Mike-

After watching the 1st 2 games on the B2 Network, I wanted to take a few minutes this morning to drop some of my observations on everyone.

– The Steelheads don’t like physicality. It’s scary to think that the Cyclones, who are far from being considered a physical team have appeared to have gotten under Idaho’s skin with their physical play. I don’t even want to think about what Idaho’s reaction to a team like South Carolina or Charlotte would have been. Those two teams were far more physical than the Cyclones are. In Game 2, Idaho tried to counter by dressing Adam Huxley but to no avail. They didn’t have an answer for Cincinnati’s “bumps.”

– Speaking of hitting. There was quite the uproar from many Cyclones fans regarding the penalty to Ian Mckenzie in game 1 for boarding when just a few minutes earlier in the game Idaho’s Cody Lampl but a nearly identical hit on Ryan Del Monte (who was also cut on the play) with out a penalty being called. Well, if you heard last nights pregame you heard Chuck comment that he received an apology from the League regarding the non call on Lampl. It’s the lack of consistency on calls like that are very frustrating.

– I was glad to see Mckenzie remain in the line up. Ian is a big kid and when he’s playing like one he can be a force on the ice. When is physical his game really picks up. Sure he’ll get the occasional elbowing call when he checks a guy under 6 feet tall because he’s so damn tall, but you also get hits like the one he put on Marty Flichel. That hit will be my nomination for hit of the year.

– How about that Mathieu Aubin.

– The Cyclones have used a two-headed monster in net all Season and the Playoffs should be no different. Jeremy Smith is an MVP candidate for getting the Boys this far; that effort won’t be forgetten. However, all those games with little rest, have taken their toll. There are rumors floating around that Jeremy has dropped 10lbs since the start of the playoffs. It’s just a rumor but completely conceivable and the loss of that much weight will cause some serious fatigue in an elite level athlete. Mayer is fresh and I think he will continue to get starts, but Coach Weber will have a short leash much as he had in Game 6 against Reading. Jeremy, your efforts are why the Cyclones are still playing. Thank you, I know you will be ready if called upon.

-Welcome back Jimmy Kilpatrick.

– The National Conference is billed as playing “run and gun” hockey. Thus far from what I’ve seen, the Steelheads fit that bill. Thy remind me a lot of Reading and Kalamazoo, who liked to score mostly in transition or early in offensive zone possession before the defense could get set up. The Cyclones did quite well against those teams during the regular season so there is no reason to think that trend won’t continue. If the game turns to one involving end to end rushing the Boys could be in trouble, but if they play Their game, I’m quite confident.

– The Steelheads are one of the highest scoring teams in the League and the Cyclones have done well to neutralize them. It kept the Idaho crowd out of the game. In Game 1 they were louder in booing the Referee for making a legitimate call than they were when their team scored it’s 2 goals in the first. In Game 2 the loudest noise they made was the “GASP” with about 20 seconds to go.

That last note leads me to the CycWords Call to Action:

The Cyclones play up to 3 games this week and USBA needs to be loud and filled with energy for all 3. During the pregame interview on Friday night Coach Weber said the energy from the Crowd gave the Boys a lift and intimidated Reading a bit. Mathieu Aubin said he loves the crowds in Cincinnati and the energy from Game 7 gave him “goosebumps.” We have to it again.

When you call the Box Office on Monday don’t just buy tickets for Thursday and Friday. We MUST fill the building all 3 nights. Our Team is running on fumes at this point and OUR energy will become THEIR energy. We ARE the 7th man.

-Mike

We’ve been operating off the grid over here at CycWords but with the Kelly Cup Playoffs well underway, We figured it was long overdue for us to weigh in.

The 1st round match-up between the Cyclones and the South Carolina Stingrays had all the makings of an instant classic. The story lines were numerous, the headliner, of course, being the previous playoff history between the 2 Teams. When all was said and done the series met every expectation, going 5 games, with 3 games, including the 5th and decisive game, going to overtime. Sure, it was a bit stressful but once it was over; as a fan of the game…wow, what a series.

– With Robert Mayer still on duty in Hamilton, the Cyclones were forced to ride Jeremy Smith. He didn’t disappoint, eventually out dueling ECHL Goaltender of the Year Todd Ford. Jeremy had a solid regular season showing his potential and why he was a 2nd round draft pick, but if someone would have told me that he was going to play to that potential in his first professional playoff series, I’m not sure I would have believed them but I’m glad that’s how it’s working out.

– A quick note on Todd Ford. He’s a solid net minder for sure, but how the heck does he win the ECHL Goaltender of the Year award over Idaho’s Richard Bachman? Bachman played more games, had a better gaa and sv%, and posted 3 more shutout performances  than Ford. Who votes on these things?

– The FNG’s continue to impress. Ortiz has wheels and a serious cannon of a shot. Heidinger has proven to be a heady player regularly being in the right place at the right time. While the two, have been in and out of the line up, they have proven to be capable additions.

***

If the 1st round match up with the Stingrays had me worried, it’s safe to say the 2nd round series against Charlotte had me mortified. The Checkers possessed speed and skill on par with South Carolina but had the one thing that the Cyclones have struggled with all season; size. While this is one of the largest Cyclones teams in the Chuck Weber era and they look very similar to Charlotte on paper, Charlotte’s game was simply bigger and more physical. If there were any areas in which the Cyclones topped the Checkers it was goaltending and, as the series went on, coaching.

As far as the goaltending went, the Cyclones were still riding the back of Jeremy Smith while the Checkers went with Ryan Munce. Smith, who was a big question mark as a rookie going into the playoffs for the first time as a pro, continued to be the story and would ultimately be considered the MVP of the series. Munce, on the other hand, was Ryan Munce. I remember Munce vaguely from his time with Reading and Johnstown in 06-07 and Mississippi in 07-08, 08-09. My impressions haven’t really changed. He’s a solid net minder overall and can be great when he puts his mind to it, but has a tendency to be lethargic, relying on his defense almost too much on the weak side of the play. Not to mention he has a dismal record against the Cyclones (3-6, with one “no decision” as he was pulled after giving up 2 goals on 3 shots in just 2:51).

As the series wore on, it was clear that the Cyclones had an advantage behind the bench. Charlotte’s game plan never really changed; score in transition, forecheck hard and most importantly, be physical. It worked for them all season why change now right? It didn’t look like the Boys were going to be able to skate with the Checkers for 60 minutes each night, especially of the series went deep so it appeared early on that the game plan was to play defensively and capitalize on opportunities to keep the game close for the 1st 30 to 40 minutes then turn up the pressure late. It worked in game 1 and 3 but after having the Checkers squarely in their sights in game 4, only to have it get away from them before they knew it, it seemed like Chuck mixed it up a bit for the rest of the series. For games 5-7, the boys came out flying early on and it seemed to catch Charlotte off guard. Whether the Charlotte coach was unwilling or unable to change his strategy (the Checkers did score 1st in every game but game 7) it was clear that the slight tweak in strategy by the Cyclones changed the entire feel of the series.

– The officiating came under fire more than ever in this series. I’m not going to claim that there is any type of conspiracy because the boys certainly aren’t saints but there is one thing I want to touch on. The ECHL is officiated by one referee, so there are going to be legitimate penalties missed, but the referee should never miss a call when the infraction happens within a 20ft radius of the puck and the referee should always have the corner of his eye on the bench area during changes and after goals. Also, the whole notion of “it’s the playoffs so we’re going to let them play” is BS. When the NHL came back after the lockout with a new set of rules to limit interference to speed the game up, it was adopted by the minor leagues including the ECHL. More and more, I’m noticing that during the playoffs referees are letting things go that would have been a penalty during the regular season. If the rule book states that it’s a penalty, call it, if not it defeats the purpose of the rule changes. For example, during the regular season, if a player finished a check with his hands high in the other players face it was called roughing. During this series, most Charlotte checks involved finishing high and it wasn’t called. Adding fuel to the fire is this little nugget; during the regular season the Cyclones were the 3rd least penalized team (1138pims), Charlotte was the 3rd most penalized team (1554pims). Now suddenly the Cyclones (202pims) are the 2nd most penalized team in the League, trailing only Utah (272pims). Charlotte is 3rd with 192pims. Perhaps the outcome of the series had something to do with karma…..

– Welcome back Mark Van Guilder! On Monday night he was playing a Game 7 for the Milwaukee Admirals in Chicago, 24 hours later he was in Charlotte, North Carolina playing in a game 6. That Game didn’t go so well, but Wednesday night’s Game 7 saw MVG net both Cyclone goals for the victory. Good Form!

***

The Cyclones will now face the Reading Royals. The two Teams only played 3 times this season with the Cyclones taking the regular season series 2-1. During the regular season the Royals played a very skilled game, but got most, if not all of their scoring from their top line. In playoffs, they appear to be a little deeper with 6 players averaging 1 point per game or more. After their top 6 it drops off quite a bit. The Cyclones on the other hand look like they have for most of the regular season, with everyone contributing, but no one running away as the hands on stat leader.

– Special teams could decide this series. The Royals power play is firing at 21.4% and if the Cyclones continue to skate short handed, the series could be over before we know it. On the flip side, Reading is the least penalized team left in the playoffs so it’s imperative the Cyclones get their power play to convert when they get the opportunity.

– Reading’s goalie Matt Dalton has played well posting a 2.88gaa and a .922sv% but I give the edge to Jeremy Smith who is a few points lower on the sv% at .918 but has the better gaa at 2.45.

– I only saw the Royals play twice this season and they reminded me of the 08-09 Wheeling Nailer. They have good speed, a lot of skill and like the transition game. Chuck had a great game plan to stifle Wheeling last season, so I’m guessing he’ll have something up his sleeve to slow down the Royals.

– The schedule for the Conference finals leaves a bit to be desired. After back to back games this Friday and Saturday, the Teams will travel to Reading for game 3 on Tuesday (5/4). The Teams won’t play again until Saturday (5/8). If needed Game 5 will be Sunday (5/9) in Reading with games 6 and 7 in Cincinnati on Tuesday (5/11) and Wednesday (5/12). The layoff between games 3 and 4 is a rough one for the boys, it’s not quite long enough to head home but a little too long to be away from home.

***

A few other playoffs notes:

– Curtis Sanford was dressed and backing up Cederick Desjardins tonight (4/29). My guess is Robert Mayer could be returned soon. The net is Jeremy’s to lose, but it will be nice to have a capable goalie ready in the wings for a change.

– As I’m sure most are aware of this by now but the the Cyclones have won every odd numbered game played and lost every even numbered game. If you’re going to have a pattern that’s t the one you want.

– Hammer dropped this little nugget the other night during the broadcast; the Checkers are the 3rd team the Cyclones have knocked out of the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the final time…ever. In 07, the Cyclones swept the Toledo Storm into hiatus. In 2008, it was the Johnstown Chiefs (although we didn’t know it would be the Chiefs last playoff game at the time). Charlotte will be leaving the ECHL for the AHL ranks next season on a sour note, losing their last Kelly Cup playoff series.

– Over in the National Conference, the Brabham Cup winning Idaho Steelheads are taking on the Stockton Thunder. I’ll be doing a bit of research as the series progress to get a handle on those potential match ups. Should the Cyclones get passed Reading, wouldn’t a match up against Stockton make for an interesting story line (the Cyclones franchise that first took the ice back in 1990 is now the Stockton Thunder)

-Mike-

They Kelly Cup Playoffs are in full swing and we, here at CycWords, have been nowhere to be found. Sorry about that. To make up for it, here are some random notes and grumblings from the past few days.

The playoff rosters were released Tuesday afternoon. The only real surprise to me was including both of the new guys over Chris Morehouse which could indicate that Chris is not 100%. If I hear anything more, I’ll let you know. Scott Reynolds, Dwayne Zinger and Jamie Coghlan are all injured. Cycwords wishes you all speedy recoveries.

– While he may not be on the Playoff Roster, Chris Morehouse is still making his presence felt with the Squad from behind the bench. Chris is a vocal player and according to Weber’s pregame interview from a few games back, he’s a good motivator for the Boys. Going a step further, he not only keeps the ‘Clones fired up, but he can also be seen running his mouth at the opposition and that should make things interesting should the Guys run into Elmira in the Conference Finals.

– FNG Will Ortiz has impressed me so far. He’s got good wheels and seems to have a solid hockey mind about him. Regardless of how this season ends, I hope he manages at least a try out for next years Squad.

-Games 1 and 2 are in the books with Series knotted at 1 a piece. Game 1 was a tight checking affair until the Cyclones offense exploded in the 2nd, ultimately resulting in a 6-1 victory. Game 2 was a different story. With the series being a condensed best of 5 the Stingrays couldn’t afford to go down 2 games to none and they came out of the gate flying. The Cyclones, on the other hand, looked sluggish and a bit befuddled by the jump in the South Carolina game. Jeremy Smith gave up 2 quick goals in the 1st, but hung in, surrendering only one more goal the rest of the way to give the Boys a chance. In the end the Stingrays took the victory to even the series. If any positive can be taken from the game 2 performance, I would say that the Cyclones looked much worse in a 3-1 defeat than the Stingrays did in game 1 when they played a decent game but gave up 6 goals.

– If Jean Hebert never officiates another Cyclones game again it will be too soon. The Cyclones had the edge in Power Play opportunities at 7 to 4 but the level of inconsistency in the game Hebert called was astounding. It’s not uncommon for referees to “let teams play” in the playoffs but at least be consistent; if it’s a slash for one team it should be for the other as well. Also, is it too much to ask for the referee to occassionally glance behind himself or away from the puck? I think that if the game had occured during the regular season the Power Play chances would have been closer to 12 to 6 in favor of the Cyclones.

There was a good article on NHL.com about Jeremy Smith. Check it out if you haven’t already.

-Mike-

The ECHL finally released the press release regarding the Kelly Cup Playoff Roster regulations. As expected there aren’t any notable changes to the regulations.

The Playoff rosters are due in to the league offices today at 3pm.