Game Day: Playoffs Begin in Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH.- The K-Wings and Cyclones open the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by Smile Direct Club on Friday night at U.S. Bank Arena.
Central Division Semifinal Game #1
Kalamazoo (0-0-0-0) at Cincinnati (0-0-0-0)
Listen: 1660 The Fan
Catch the Game:
Fans looking to watch Friday and Saturday's games are invited to head to Old Burdick's downtown where they can watch the game on one of the many big screen TVs inside the restaurant. Parking in the Radisson garage for those attending to watch the K-Wings game can be validated by Old Burdick's upon the conclusion of the game.
Season Series Recap:
Kalamazoo and Cincinnati met 11 times during the regular season with the Cyclones controlling the season series. Cincinnati won nine of the meetings with every game finishing in regulation. Kalamazoo's victories over the Cyclones came in the first meeting of the season as Kyle Blaney scored in overtime to give the K-Wings a 4-3 victory, and on March 3 at Wings Event Center as the K-Wings topped the Cyclones 4-2. ECHL scoring champ Jesse Schultz led the Cyclones against the K-Wings this season recording 13 points (5g, 8a) in 11 games against Kalamazoo this season. Myles Powell (5g, 7a) and ECHL defenseman of the year Eric Knodel (3g, 9a) each finished the year with 12 points against Kalamazoo. Chris Collins (3g, 5a) led the K-Wings with eight points against the Cyclones. The ECHL Rookie of the Year was one of five K-Wings to score at least three goals against Cincinnati this season. Michael Houser appeared in eight of the 11 games against Kalamazoo this season, posting a record of 7-1-0-0, with a 1.51 goals against average and a .945 save percentage. Jake Hildebrand shouldered the load against the Cyclones posting a record of 1-6-0-0 in eight games, while Ivan Kulbakov did not face the Cyclones a single time.
The 2019 Kelly Cup Central Division Semifinal matchup is the fourth postseason meeting all-time between the teams, and the first since 1996 Playoffs, when both teams were members of the IHL. Cincinnati won that series, coming in the second round, by defeating the K-Wings in seven games. The Cyclones hold the all-time postseason head-to-head record, having won ten of the 18 meetings. The teams met in the playoffs every year from 1994-96 while in the IHL. Kalamazoo took their lone series victory during the 1995 playoffs.
Back in the Playoffs:
After just barely missing the playoffs last season the K-Wings return to the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the eighth time since joining the ECHL in the 2009-10 season. Kalamazoo's last trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs ended in seven games as the K-Wings fell to the Toledo Walleye in the first round of the 2016 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Since joining the ECHL the K-Wings are 12-29 in seven playoff series.
Michael Neal leads all active K-Wings in playoff experience at the professional level having played in 35 Kelly Cup Playoff games. Kyle Bushee is right behind Neal, having skated in 34 playoff games, the bulk of which came as a member of the Wheeling Nailers during the 2011 playoffs. Overall ten different K-Wings have appeared in playoff games at the ECHL level.
The K-Wings received reinforcements on Tuesday morning as forwards Kyle Thomas and Reid Gardiner were reassigned to Kalamazoo from Utica along with netminder Ivan Kulbakov. Gardiner rejoins the K-Wings after recording 53 points in 36 games prior to being recalled. The Humboldt, SK native has a seven-game point streak in the ECHL dating back to January 25 against Rapid City. He has totaled 14 points during that stretch, including four straight multi-point games. The forward ended the year third on the team in scoring.
Thomas returns to Kalamazoo after being recalled at the end of February. Prior to his recall Thomas saw his 15-game point-streak ended. The forward finished the regular season ranked fifth on the team in scoring with 38 points (15g, 23a).
Kulbakov returns to Kalamazoo after a two-game stint with the Comets. The netminder has played in 16 games for the K-Wings, posting a record of 8-5-1 alongside a 2.89 goals against average, and a .919 save percentage.
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