Nick Brunker's Blog
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Blog
April 16, 2013 | View Comments
After a grueling 72-game season, the Cyclones have kicked off their 2013 Kelly Cup Playoff run against Toledo! Throughout the series...be sure to check back here for the latest updates!
UPDATE: 4/17 - 3:00pm
First off...thanks SO much for all of the Happy Birthday messages via Twitter and Facebook yesterday. You guys are the best...it certainly made the day that much better. And to top it all off with an OT win to clinch the series was a major bonus!
For the many who have requested it, here is the audio recap of the Cyclones 4-3 OT win in Toledo. While my voice barely held up, it was one of the wildest and weirdest finishes I've had the pleasure of broadcasting!
I found it fitting that the captain, Mathieu Aubin, was the man that scored the game-winner. Not only was he the subject of a bunch of ire from Toledo fans, but he also pulled into first place all by himself on the club's all-time playoff goal scoring list! Aubin now has 20 goals in his Cincy postseason career.
One thing is for certain...it's only going to get tougher from here. The Gladiators cruised in their first round series with South Carolina and have been resting up since last weekend. Should be a very inspired semifinals series. More about that, though, on my Eastern Conference Semifinals Blog.
For me, there's one choice for First Round MVP...that's Michael Houser. The guy was absolutely spectacular throughout the series. Even last night, he made some game-saving saves to keep the Walleye's lead at just one. And considering how much hockey he's already played in these playoffs, to be as solid as he was makes everyone else's job that much easier.
And with that, we wrap up the Quarterfinals Blog. We'll see you in Round 2!!!
UPDATE: 4/16 - 12:00pm
As the team gets set for Game 6...the mood is loose, but you can tell that there's a strong focus for this group. It's going to take an effort from EVERYBODY to pick up a win tonight.
Great to see Johnny Mac back on the ice for Cincinnatil...the guy could be the biggest weapon on this team tonight. When he's on the ice, he can be a difference maker. While I'm sure he realizes the role he needs to play, he seems unfazed by the pressure. Smiling, laughing, excited to be here.
Reports from Toledo suggest that Jordan Pearce will get the start again tonight in net...and why not? He was great on Saturday in Game 5, although he got very lucky at times. But that's part of playoff hockey...being good AND lucky. The Clones have to find a way to bury their opportunities...especially early.
Not surprisingly, much is being made by fans up in Toledo regarding Mathieu Aubin and his actions late in the game...he was fined for "careless use of his stick." All I'll say is...fans will be fans. This is a match-up tonight where bad penalties could prove deadly. Both team's power plays have been solid in this series. While tempers will undoubtedly run high, I'd imagine that "zeroing" in on Cincinnati's captain won't be likely.
As always, we'll be on the air 20 minutes prior to the Opening Face-Off tonight on FM 100 The FAN (100.3 FM)...we invite you to join us!! Let's close this baby out!!
UPDATE: 4/15 - 3:15pm
Well, this is why they play a best-of-seven...we all knew coming into this series that this first round match-up was gonna be close. And we're seeing exactly that. The Walleye have played some inspired hockey, which was the only way they could play facing elimination on back-to-back nights. And while the Cyclones master plan didn't include a return trip to Toledo, that's what it's gonna take to decide the series.
Jarrod Skalde told the Enquirer after the game that he wanted to see more passion from his team...and I'd expect to see a whole heck of a lot more on Tuesday.
Had a chance to catch up with Dan Eves, Charles-Olivier Roussel, and Trevor Lewis after today's practice and talked about Game 6 and the mentality going in...
As they said in the video...the mood today seemed loose but focused. They're still up 3-2 in the series and need just one of the next two to advance.
The other big news of Monday (4/15) is the re-addition of forward John McFarland from San Antonio...no question this guy has AHL ability. He was more than a point-per-game guy while with Cincy this season and was regulary productive while in San Antonio. When he's running on all cylinders, McFarland could be the best player in the league. I think back to a game in Fort Wayne where he simply took over in the third period, helping Cincinnati rally to win a game at Memorial Coliseum. From everything I've heard, he cannont wait to rejoin the Cyclones and is excited to help them pick up the series win tomorrow.
The Clones will travel up day-of-game tomorrow...leaving downtown Cincinnati after a morning skate at U.S. Bank Arena. I'm sure it'll be a spirited run-through as the guys get back to Huntington Center just a few hours before game time.
Barring any other late changes...I'd expect things to look pretty similar in terms of roster as they have in this series. Taylor Ellington should be returning to the lineup after missing Games 4 and 5. And with the addition of McFarland, they'll have to place someone else on the reserve list. No word yet on who that will be.
Don't forget, you can WATCH the game LIVE at Game Time Sports Bar and Grill in Cheviot and hear all the action on FM 100 The FAN! We'll be on the air at 7:15 with Cyclones Warmups - puck drops at 7:35pm!
UPDATE: 4/13 - 1:25pm
What a wild but frustrating finish last night...that's the type of game you expect in the postseason and I would imagine tonight will be just as spirited on both sides.
My quick thoughts from the game: Michael Houser absolutely stole the show. Although I'm sure he'd be the first to tell you that he would like to have the game-winning shot back last night...he was the reason the game lasted as long as it did. A career playoff high of 42 saves is nothing to shake your head at. Meanwhile, the Embach-Pacan-Lewis line continues to soar. Both Embach and Pacan combined for a beautiful goal that I truly thought would be the game-winner. If the Clones can play with as much buzz as they did in the second period last night, they'll be just fine.
Shots on net are going to be critical...obviously you don't want to allow 40+ shots in a game (although since the game went into double OT, it's a bit inflated). But against Jordan Pearce, the more shots the better. He was solid last night between the pipes, but not great. If they can pepper him early tonight, I think the momentum will swing right back Cincy's way.
Speaking of momentum...the first 5-10 minutes of tonight's game are going to be crucial. We harp on the importance of the first goal. Tonight it's as critical as ever. With last night's win, you can bet Toledo is feeling pretty good about themselves and have just as much motivation tonight as they did 24 hours ago. If the Clones can stomp on 'em early...all that excitement and momentum from the 2OT game last night floods back to Cincinnati's side...especially at home.
Unless there are any late changes...I'd expect to see the exact same lineup as last night...including goaltenders. I thought Taylor Aronson played admirably in his playoff debut...who skated in lieu of Taylor Ellington last night. If there are any changes to tonight's lineup...that might be it. We will have to wait and see.
As Coach Skalde told us before the game last night..."boxing out" is going to be crucial. Toledo's goals (and best scoring chances) all came because of heavy traffic at the net. That's one of the few ways that team's have beaten Houser all year. Expect the Walleye to be throwing everything they have at the cage.
Just like last night...we'll be on the air LIVE on FM 100 The FAN at 7:15pm for all the pre-game coverage. Puck drops at 7:30pm! But let's be honest...you need to be at U.S. Bank Arena in person! It's gonna be an awesome game with plenty of dramatics. Hope to have you with us!
As promised, here's the story on the NHL possibly heading to Las Vegas (as talked about in the 1st Intermission last night).
UPDATE 4/12 - 10:30am
It's another Gameday!! No changes to report at this point...the Cyclones are back on the ice for another morning skate as they prepare for tonight's Game 4 match-up.
In case you missed it from yesterday, I had a chance to sit down with Coach Skalde, Michael Houser, and Josh Birkholz after practice to get their thoughts on the Game 3 win and predictions for Game 4...
While there's definitely a ton of confidence coming into to tonight, make no mistake...the Cyclones know that this one is going to be the toughest game yet. As they mentioned in the video interviews, the guys know they have to have a better start if they want to pick up the win.
A big key in this series has been the lack of production from Kyle Rogers and Willie Coetzee...who remain scoreless in the series despite being their best players from the regular season. However, they've still had a good offensive presence from Trevor Parkes and Joey Martin. The Clones will need to be aware of when/where they are on the ice.
The obvious difference, however, has been goaltending...both Kent Simpson and Michael Houser have been great in the first three games. But Houser has been better. If it weren't for "House's" spectacular play in the opening period on Wednesday, this series is probaby 2-1. But that's what winning teams rely on. And tonight will be no different. No word as of yet who Toledo will start...but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Jordan Pearce get the nod. If indeed he does, it'll be his first playoff start since the 2010 first round.
Another reminder, we'll be on the air again tonight on FM 100 The FAN (100.3 FM) beginning with Cyclones Warm-Up at 7:15pm! But we hope you're with us in person at U.S. Bank Arena for a HUGE game.
UPDATE 4/10 - 12:20pm
Not much of a surprise, roster wise for Game 3 tonight...with the addition of Wilson, Matt Smyth becomes the third scratch and will join Josh McFadden and Taylor Aronson on the sidelines. Both McFadden and Aronson were scratched in the first two games.
While Toledo's Game 3 goaltender still undecided, we'll just have to wait and see. Both are challenging when they're on their games. Kent Simpson has started both games in the series so far.
We do know that Michael Houser will tend the pipes for Cincinnati...it will be his net until Foster gets sent back I'd imagine. Houser was stellar in both of the series opening games...he's going to need to be that way again tonight.
Your stat of the night: The Cyclones four power play goals on Saturday was the most in club history for a single game. The power play has been a constant area of work for Coach Skalde and Coach Macdonald. That night, the power play made the Walleye pay.
Toledo's Head Coach Nick Vitucci did stress how his team went "overboard" on Saturday...I'd expect things to be a little more controlled tonight. At least early. Don't mistake that for being a "soft" game. Tonight is going to be a battle. But I'd expect both sides to be especially careful not to take bad penalties.
After missing the second half of Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury, Mathieu Aubin was back on the ice all week and will be in the lineup tonight.
UPDATE 4/9 - 2:30pm
The Cyclones had one more practice day on Wednesday to prepare for Game 3 against Toledo at U.S. Bank Arena. One big weapon was added in the form of Garrett Wilson, who was reassigned from San Antonio this morning. He brings another BIG scoring punch to an already solid lineup.
The Walleye, meanwhile, have had a couple of moves over the last 24 hours. Forward Andrej Nestrasil was reassigned to Toledo by their affiliate in Grand Rapids while defenseman Ben Youds was lifted to the AHL by Rockford. So what they lose on the blue line, they gain back in forward strength. Should be another great match-up.
In addition to Garrett Wilson, I caught up with Coach Skalde, David Pacan, and Mike Embach:
With the addition of Wilson, only John McFarland, Jonathan Hazen, and Brian Foster are still in San Antonio...all are eligible to come down and play if necessary. The AHL regular season ends on Sunday, April 21.
Don't forget we'll be broadcasting ALL games, home and away on our flagship station, FM 100 The FAN. We'll be on the air for Wednesday's Game 3 at 7:15pm with the Opening Face-Off to follow at 7:30pm! Online listeners, click here.
UPDATE 4/7 - 12:30am
We're making our way back to Puckopolis after a successful weekend in Toledo...two games, two wins...and a big lead coming home to U.S. Bank Arena for Game's 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Friday. Then, if necessary, there would be a Game 5 on Saturday! In case you missed any of the action, here's how it sounded at Huntington Center in Game 2!
After playing the second longest game in club history on Friday night, there didn't seem to be any ill effects for either team. As both played extremely well in the opening period on Saturday. Yet, when things started rolling in the second period...the Cyclones lifted off.
David Pacan was spectacular again...a three goal performance (plus an assist) while Mike Embach notched three assists to give him two straight multi-point games. For those interested in such things, it was just the second time in club history that a Cyclones player earned a playoff hat trick. Mac Faulkner did it back in 2009 against Elmira.
As expected, things got very chippy as the game got more and more lopsided. I wouldn't expect anything less on Wednesday when the team's resume in Cincy!
UPDATE 4/6 - 11:50am
What a wild one last night!! The Cyclones capped off the 2nd longest playoff game in club history with a thrilling 2-1 win. In case you missed it, here were the highlights from Game 1 as heard on the Cyclones Radio Network! Mike Embach became the eighth player in Cyclones playoff history to notch a game-winner. Cincinnati is now 7-5 all time in postseason overtimes.
Not surprisingly, after nearly 85 minutes of hockey last night, the Saturday morning skate was optional - with only two players participating (both scratched players and the back-up goalie, Anthony Borelli).
Also as expected, tonight's goaltending match-up is expected to remain the same. We know Michael Houser is going to be in net for the Clones, but the question would be whether or not Kent Simpson would start again for Toledo. I've been told this morning that he will indeed get the nod. Simpson made 36 saves...but it was one too few.
We talked with Head Coach Jarrod Skalde last night about the "War of Attrition"...and it couldn't have held more true. A lot of hockey was played last night; the question is, how will the teams respond? I'd expect more of the same tonight.
We'll have all the action again TONIGHT on the Cyclones Radio Network (FM 100 The FAN, America One, CyclonesHockey.com) starting at 7:15pm!
UPDATE 4/5 - 10:00am
The day is finally here! Game 1 of the Best-of-Seven Eastern Conference Quarterfinals is upon us! Puck drops at 7:35pm. We'll have updates throughout the day leading up to face-off and highlights afterwards.
Not much of a surprise who is going to start in net tonight for the Clones...Michael Houser. "House" was 17-10-1-1 with a 2.55 GAA during the regular season. He went 2-1 vs. Toledo this year with a 1.00 GAA. On the Toledo side, it would appear that Kent Simpson will get the nod for the opener. He was 20-14-2-3 with a 2.36 GAA. Versus the Clones, he was 3-2 with a 2.00 GAA.
Both teams have added a player to their mix...the Clones have brought in goaltender Anthony Borelli on an Amateur Tryout Agreement (ATO) to back-up until Brian Foster returns from San Antonio. The Brown University product finished fifth in the NCAA with a 1.84 goals-against average this year. Should be a more than steady second option.
The Walleye, meanwhile, had talented winger Byron Froese return from Rockford. The Chicago Blackhawks draft pick posted 33 points in 38 games with Toledo this season and added a pair of assist in the AHL with the Ice Hogs. He'll be teamed with Kyle Rogers and Randy Rowe on a line.
Happy 27th Birthday wishes to forward Dan Eves...no better way to celebrate than with a WIN in Game 1! You can follow him on Twitter - @Eves_E.
UPDATE 4/4 - 1:00pm
We've arrived in Toledo for the big playoff opener this weekend...the Clones are going through a standard practice day today. It's one last dress rehersal before kicking things off tomorrow night against the Walleye. Since the series is the closest, geographically, of any match-up in the East - we had an easy 3-hour drive up I-75. It makes things a lot easier to adjust to than if we had to drive, say, 8 hours to Greenville or nearly 20 to Ft. Myers.
Things are pretty loose, yet focused with this bunch...nothing different than the rest of the season. When you have the types of leaders they have in the locker room, it's not surprising that it's business as usual.
This is why they play 72 games...to do what the Cyclones are about to do tomorrow night...begin their quest for the Kelly Cup.
While it's certainly not a make or break, the team that scores first statistically wins the game...this season, the Clones were 32-9-1-1 in such situations while the Walleye were 23-10-2--3. Not bad odds. But with both teams also surrendering an average of 2.7 goals per game, scoring early (or at all) is a challenge. But make no mistake, the Clones are more than ready to take on that challenge.
The boys have one more day of practice on Wednesday before heading up to Toledo on Thursday morning...we'll bus up to the Huntington Center for an early afternoon practice and then settle in for the two game set beginning Friday and Saturday. I'll talk with Coach Skalde about his award and the upcoming trip later today...I'll post it to the Podcast Page.
It was so exciting to officially announce that Head Coach Jarrod Skalde was named the ECHL's Coach of the Year yesterday...he's worked tirelessly to build a team primed for another Kelly Cup Playoff run. He and Matt Macdonald have done a tremendous job working through countless call-ups, injuries, and other moves that become common in the ECHL these days. Couldn't be more proud of him...Congrats Jarrod!
The San Antonio Rampage have recalled Brian Foster and Anthony Luciani this afternoon....the Cyclones will now be in need of a back-up goaltender for the weekend. I'd expect to see a move in that regard coming at some point later in the week. But that's just a guess. As for Luciani, while he's technically a protected player (meaning he could theoretically be sent back down), I would not expect to see him in a Cyclones jersey during the playoffs.
As for Toledo's Playoff Roster...its as follows:
Kent Simpson, G; Jordan Pearce, G; Ben Youds, D; Phil Oreskovic, D; Wes O'Neill, D; Erik Spady, D; Joey Ryan, D; Phil Rauch, D; Cody Lampl, D; Trevor Parkes, F; Willie Coetzee, F; Tyler Brenner, F; Nino Musitelli, F; Aaron Bogosian, F; Travis Novak, F; Joey Martin, F; Kyle Rogers, F; Randy Rowe, F; Stephon Thorne, F.
Reserve List: Adam Hobson, F.
Playoff Eligible: Luke Glendening, F; Philippe Paradis, F; Terry Broadhurst, F; Max Nicastro, D; Andrej Nestrasil, F; Byron Froese, F; Gleason Fournier, D.
The Cyclones have announced their 2013 Kelly Cup Playoff Roster today...not a huge surprise at the list:
Forwards: Aubin, Birkholz, Embach, Eves, Lewis, Lindstrom, Pacan, Pelech, Smyth, and Vaive.
Defensemen: Aronson, Ellington, Foss, MacDonald, McFadden, O'Hanley, Roussel, Reed.
Goaltenders: Foster, Houser.
Playoff Eligible but currently in AHL: McFarland, Shalla, Wilson, Reid, Hazen, Bitetto
For those wondering, you can have a maximum of 23 players on your Playoff Roster at a time... 20 active and 3 reserve. Upon the AHL season ending, the playoff eligible players listed above can supplement the Cyclones roster. Meaning, that as of Tuesday (4/2) there are three available spaces to fill before the roster would need to be trimmed.
Also keeping an eye on the AHL affiliates...the Milwaukee Admirals have surged into the playoff bubble...they're sitting in 7th as of 4/2 with a total of 75 points and 10 games to go. The San Antonio Rampage, though, are going to need some help down the stretch. Chuck Weber's bunch are in 14th and sit 9 points back with 10 games left.
And since the AHL regular season doesn't end until April 21st...the Cyclones Playoff Roster may not see any additional reinforcements until the end of their Quarterfinals series at the earliest...should they advance.
It's going to be the first time that the Cyclones and Walleye will meet in the postseason, however, Cincinnati faced the now-defunct Toledo Storm during the 2007 playoffs...and incidentally, won the series 3-0 before falling to Dayton.
Statistically, it's about as close of a match-up as it can get. The Clones finished with a 4-3-1 mark against Toledo during the regular season...Toledo finished with the same. The Clones scored 21 goals...Toledo notched 19. Ironically, the series is also the closest geographically of any match-up in the Eastern Conference, with just 200 miles separating the North Division foes.
Big congrats to David Pacan for earning a spot on the 2012-13 ECHL All-Rookie Team...he also finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting. He is gonna be a big part of the Cyclones playoff offensive unit.
All of the Kelly Cup Playoff action (home and away) will be available on our Cyclones Radio Network Flagship, FM 100 The FAN along with CyclonesHockey.com and America One! As always, our pregame coverage begins 20 minutes prior to the opening face-off!
Here's the list of games for the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals...in case you need a refresher:
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 5 at Toledo - 7:35pm
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 6 at Toledo - 7:35pm
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 10 (Playoff Package Holders use Game Ticket A)
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 12 (Playoff Package Holders use Game Ticket B)
Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 13** (Playoff Package Holders use Game Ticket C)
Game 6 – Tue., Apr. 16 at Toledo - 7:35pm**
Game 7 – Wed., Apr. 17** (Playoff Package Holders use Game Ticket D)
(** = if necessary)