Cyclones Game Preview: Kelly Cup Playoffs- Round 1, Game 1 vs. Kalamazoo
Overview: The Cyclones kick off the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs with a matchup against the Kalamazoo Wings in the Central Division Semifinals. This will be the first playoff meeting between the two teams since the Cyclones returned to action prior to the 2006-07 season, and will be the fourth meeting all-time, as the teams met three times as members of the International Hockey League (IHL) from 1994-1996.
Season Series Recap: The Cyclones and Wings met 12 times during the 2018-19 regular season, with Cincinnati posting a record of 9-1-1-0 and outscoring the Wings, 42-22, in those contests. Cincinnati was 5-0-1-0 on home ice against Kalamazoo this season, and had a record of 4-1-0-0 on the road. Cyclones forward Jesse Schultz led all players in the season series with five goals and eight assists for 13 points, while both Myles Powell (5g, 7a) and Eric Knodel (3g, 9a) each recorded 12 points.
2018-19 Regular Season Results:
Cincinnati 3 vs. Kalamazoo 0 (Mar. 16 2019) Final
Kalamazoo 4 vs. Cincinnati 2 (Mar. 3 2019) Final
Cincinnati 5 vs. Kalamazoo 1 (Feb. 20 2019) Final
Cincinnati 4 vs. Kalamazoo 1 (Jan. 18 2019) Final
Cincinnati 8 vs. Kalamazoo 5 (Jan. 5 2019) Final
Cincinnati 3 vs Kalamazoo 1 (Dec. 9 2018) Final
Cincinnati 6 vs. Kalamazoo 3 (Nov. 21 2018) Final
Cincinnati 2 vs. Kalamazoo 1 (Nov. 17 2018) Final
Cincinnati 7 vs. Kalamazoo 1 (Nov. 2 2018) Final
Cincinnati 2 vs. Kalamazoo 1 (Oct. 27 2018) Final
Kalamazoo 4 vs. Cincinnati 3 (Oct. 26 2018) Final OT
Previewing Kalamazoo: After missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs last season, the Wings are back in the postseason for the fifth time in the last six years. Kalamazoo was the third team in the Central Division to clinch their spot, and finished the regular season with a 36-31-2-3 record and a fourth-place finish in the division. Kalamazoo ranked 17thin the ECHL in offense, averaging 3.18 goals per game, and were 24th in team defense with 3.52 goals allowed. The power play was a strong point for the Wings, however, ranking fourth in the League with a 20.3% conversion percentage (62/306). Kalamazoo was also one of the top teams at playing with a lead, posting a mark of 21-1-1-0 when leading after two periods, and 22-7-1-1 when scoring the game's first goal. The Wings were led by ECHL Rookie of the Year Chris Collins who totaled a team-leading 28 goals and 37 assists for 65 points. He was followed by forwards Tanner Sorenson (22g, 42a) and Reid Gardner (26g, 27a) who rounded out the top three. In goal, Jake Hildebrand turned out a 21-18-0-2 record along with a 3.58 goals-against average and a .890 save percentage.
Cyclones Clean Up: Cincinnati took four of the five individual postseason awards, as forward Jesse Schultz, defenseman Eric Knodel, goaltender Michael Houser, and head coach Matt Thomas all earned ECHL hardware. Schultz earned League MVP honors after leading the ECHL with 22 goals and a League-leading 58 assists for a career-high 80 points through 71 games, and was third with 22 power play assists and tied for sixth with 25 power play points. Schultz also earned the ECHL scoring title, and was also named to the All-ECHL First Team last week. Knodel led all defensemen with 53 points (17g, 36a), and ranked third with an on-ice rating of plus-38. His 17 goals tied him for first and his 36 assists placed him fourth amongst League blueliners in those respective categories. Additionally, he was second amongst League rearguards in both power play points (25) and power play assists (19), and he was second with six man-advantage goals. He was also named the AMI"Graphics ECHL"Plus Performer of the Monthfor February, after posting an on-ice rating of plus-16 through 13 games during the month. Houser, who was named to the All-ECHL First Team last week, led all ECHL netminders with a record of 29-7-4-1, and was second with a 2.13 goals-against average. He also placed fourth in the ECHL with a .922 save percentage. His 29 wins tied him for the League-lead amongst ECHL netminders, and he allowed more than three goals on just seven occasions. Additionally, he made 25 or more saves in all but 12 outings this season. Houser was also named the Warrior Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Month for December after a perfect 6-0-0-0 record along with a 1.17 goals against average and a .950 save percentage. In his first season behind the Cyclones bench, Thomas guided the Cyclones to a League-best 51-13-5-3 record for 110 points, earning the team's second-ever Brabham Cup as ECHL regular season champions, along with the team's first division title since the 2012-13 season. The Cyclones achieved a 30-2-2-2 mark on home ice, tying an ECHL record for most home wins and fewest home losses, and also led the League with an average of 3.92 goals scored per game and goals against with 2.44. Thomas was also named head coach of the Western Conference All-Stars at this season's CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic in Toledo.
Home Sweet Home: Cincinnati concluded the ECHL regular season with a League-best 30-2-2-0 record at home, tying the all-time ECHL mark for most home wins in a season as well as fewest regulation home losses. The Cyclones outscored teams 155-73 at U.S. Bank Arena, and had a record of 16-0-2-2 when leading after one period, and a 22-0-0-2 mark when ahead through 40 minutes.
Cyclones Claim Brabham Cup: The Cincinnati Cyclones earned the 2018-19 Brabham Cup as ECHL Regular Season Champions. This is the second Brabham Cup for the Cyclones who also took the prize during the 2007-08 campaign, before ultimately going on to win their first of two Kelly Cup championships in a three-year span. The Brabham Cup solidifies Cincinnati as the top seed in the ECHL overall, and guarantees the 'Clones home ice advantage throughout the entirety of the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club. The Cyclones clinched the ECHL's Central Division title back on March 20, marking their first division title since the 2012-13 season. They ultimately fell to the eventual Kelly Cup champion Reading Royals in the Eastern Conference Finals that season. This will the 10th trip to the postseason for the Cyclones since returning to action for the 2006-07 season, and the third berth in the last four seasons. The Cyclones have won three division championships in that time (2007-08, 2008-09, 2012-13), and have a pair of Kelly Cup championships in 2008 and 2010. Cincinnati also made a third trip to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2014, falling in six games to the Alaska Aces.
Good in All Areas: The Cyclones boasted the League's top offense, averaging 3.92 goals per game, and the top defense, having allowed a miniscule 2.44 goals per 60 minutes and outscoring teams 282-176. Starting and finishing games were a specialty for Cincinnati, as they have a League-leading 99 first period goals while only allowing 53, and have allowed 47 goals in the third period. Cincinnati is outscoring the opposition, 91-47, in the final 20 minutes of play, and are 37-1-1-2. when leading through two periods. They have given up more than three goals in regulation just nine times this season.
Welcome Matt Thomas: The Cyclones entered the 2018-19 season with a new head coach. In early August, Cincinnati hired Matt Thomas as the team's new bench boss. He replaced Matt Macdonald who was named assistant coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins; American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. A native of Maple Ridge, BC, Thomas has extensive head coaching experience in the ECHL, spanning 11 seasons with the Atlantic Boardwalk Bullies, Fresno Falcons, and Stockton Thunder from 2002-2013. Thomas served two seasons as an assistant coach with Atlantic City, including helping the Boardwalk Bullies to a Kelly Cup Championship in 2003, before assuming the role of head coach and Director of Hockey Operations with the team prior to 2004-2005. He compiled a 42-22-8 mark in his lone season as Atlantic City's bench boss, and served as the head coach for the 2005 ECHL All-Star Game. He then moved on to Fresno prior to the 2005-06 campaign, leading the Falcons to a 43-15-14 mark along with a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Over the next two seasons in Fresno, Thomas compiled a 76-41-17 record, with trips to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs on both occasions. He coached the Falcons during the first half of 2008-09, leading the team to an 18-10-2 mark before the team ceased operations midseason. Thomas was not out of work for long however, as he was named head coach of Stockton shortly after, and finished the year with a record of 22-16-3, and a trip to the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Thomas went on to coach the Thunder for four more seasons, amassing a mark of 141-111-36, reaching the post season each year, including a trip to the 2013 Kelly Cup Finals. He enters the 2018-19 campaign as the ECHL's sixth-winningest coach with a career record of 342-225-80, just one win back of fifth place all time. He is also the all-time leader in playoff games coached with 97, and ranks third with 49 playoff wins.
The 2018-19 season has come to an end and the 2019 Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club are HERE! The 2018-19 ECHL Brabham Cup Champion Cincinnati Cyclones want YOU along for the ride, and playoff tickets are on sale NOW starting at $18 per seat for single game tickets and $15 per seat for groups of 20 or more! Call (513) 421-PUCK for tickets and more information, and stay on top of all the latest team updates and information on Facebook, Twitter (@CincyCyclones), and Instagram, along with our website, www.cycloneshockey.com !
Kelly Cup Playoffs - Divisional Semifinals
Game 1 vs. Kalamazoo Wings (Best-of-Seven Series Tied 0-0)
Friday - 7:35pm ET
U.S. Bank Arena - Cincinnati, OH
Game 1 Video Preview
Game 1: Kalamazoo AT Cincinnati- Friday, April 12 @ 7:35pm ET
Game 2: Kalamazoo AT Cincinnati- Saturday, April 13 @ 7:35pm ET
Game 3: Cincinnati AT Kalamazoo- Wednesday, April 17 @ 7:30pm ET
Game 4: Cincinnati AT Kalamazoo- Friday, April 19 @ 7:30pm ET
Game 5: Cincinnati AT Kalamazoo- Saturday, April 20 @ 7:00pm ET
Game 6: Kalamazoo AT Cincinnati- Tuesday, April 23 @ 7:35pm ET
Game 7: Kalamazoo AT Cincinnati- Wednesday, April 24 @ 7:35pm ET
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