By Debbie Juniewicz
Dayton Daily News
FAIRBORN, Ohio – The Dayton Bombers dug a hole — more like a gorge — but have managed to claw their way out.
The Cincinnati Cyclones led the ECHL’s best-of-seven North Division Finals 3-1 Saturday — a single win away from a trip to the American Conference Finals. That was Saturday.
The Bombers evened the series Wednesday with a 3-0 win in front of a crowd of 1,930 at the Nutter Center. Dayton is now one win away from becoming only the third team in league history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the ECHL playoffs.
“We have a lot of confidence, and this series is a real pride thing for us,” Bombers coach Don MacAdam said. “No one wanted to finish the season playing the way we were playing, and we were determined not to let that happen.”
That determination wasn’t evident early as the Bombers had several scoring opportunities, including a 5-on-3 advantage, in the first period but couldn’t get past Cyclones goaltender Cedrick Desjardins. Despite a combined 23 shots on goal and four power plays, the North Division rivals were scoreless after 20 minutes of play.
The scoring drought continued in the second period until Bombers center Paul Kelly connected from long range to put Dayton on the scoreboard at the 15:35 mark. The Cyclones out shot the Bombers 12-8, but Dayton led 1-0 at the break.
The one-goal lead, however, was not a comfortable one for the Bombers.
“Not against Cincinnati,” MacAdam said. “They are too good of a team.”
Dayton goaltender Adam Berkhoel (pictured) was flawless again in net for the Bombers, posting 32 saves and earning a league-leading third shutout in the playoffs.
“He has been the most constant player on the team all season,” MacAdam said of Berkhoel.
The ECHL Goaltender of the Year wasn’t as concerned about the shutout as he was about momentum.
“Shutouts are huge because the last thing you want to do is give them confidence,” Berkhoel said. “You want the momentum for the next game.”
The best-of-seven series now comes down to a single game, but the game plan remains the same.
“Work every night as if it’s your last,” Berkhoel said. “That’s how we got back in this.”