By Debbie Juniewicz
Dayton Daily News
FAIRBORN, Ohio – They’ve met 21 times this season, but this was the only one that mattered.
The Bombers made ECHL history Thursday, becoming only the third team to overcome a 3-1 playoff-series deficit. Dayton handed Cincinnati its third consecutive loss, 5-3, to clinch the North Division Playoff Championship in front of a crowd of 2,380 at the Nutter Center.
Bombers coach Don MacAdam is familiar with improbable comebacks.
“We did it when I was with the Red Wings, and we were the fourth NHL team to do it then,” he said. “But it’s tough. You’re down in wins and you’re down emotionally. It’s a long road back.”
Dayton fought from the opening puck drop. Bombers leading scorer Yannick Tifu (pictured) forced the puck through traffic with a second-effort goal late in the first period. Although Cincinnati outshot Dayton 12-9 in the first period, the Bombers led 1-0.
After five scoreless periods, starting in Game 5, the Cyclones finally lit up the scoreboard as forward Mathieu Aubin scored on a Cincinnati power play early in the second period to pull to even, 1-1.
Dayton defenseman Trevor Hendrikx recaptured the lead for the Bombers on a long-distance shot that bounced into the net off the skate of Cincinnati goaltender Cedrick Desjardins. The Bombers would never trail again.
Bombers defenseman Brad Farynuk posted a power-play goal from the circle to push Dayton to 3-1.
Cyclones forward Barret Ehgoetz closed the gap with a Cincinnati score at the 15:25 mark, but Bombers left wing Justin Maiser wasted little time retaliating with a Dayton goal 53 seconds later. The Bombers led 4-2 after 40 minutes.
Cincinnati forward Jason Deitsch made the home crowd nervous as he forced in the Cyclones third goal with less than a minute to play, but Dayton forward Joe Cullen sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with 28 seconds to play.
“You rarely survive when you’re down 3-1, but these guys have lots of faith, in themselves and in each other,” MacAdam said.
That’s not to say that faith wasn’t shaken a few times in this hard-fought series.
“It was tough, especially after they (Cyclones) took it to us in Game 4,” Dayton goaltender Adam Berkhoel said. “But even when there wasn’t a lot left, we were able to stick together and dig deep.”