By Jeremy Peter
CINCINNATI – What the Cyclones need to do in Wednesday’s ECHL playoff matchup with Wheeling is clear. Win now, or face elimination Friday night.
The Nailers negated Cincinnati’s home-ice advantage in the opening two rounds of the seven-game series while outscoring the Cyclones 7-2. Wheeling has struck first in all three games to put Cincinnati in a 2-1 hole heading into Game 4.
A couple of reasons for the defending Kelly Cup champions’ struggles have been the inability to take advantage of Wheeling miscues and the strong goaltending by Wheeling’s Curtis Darling, who had 70 saves on 72 shots in Cincinnati.
“Immediately after Game 2, the spirits were down, but they showed a lot of resiliency and came in and got back to work,” Weber said of his team. “They could have just packed it in, but they believe in each other and that, if given another, opportunity they will capitalize on it.”
That confidence got them back into the series Saturday. The Cyclones outshot the Nailers 45-33, and carried their regular-season road dominance into the playoffs posting a 7-3 victory behind multiple goal nights by rookies Jake Dietrich and Dustin Sproat. Besides the outcome, though, Weber said no big changes were made in Game 3 from the previous two.
“There were some little adjustments, but we didn’t think the system was the big issue,” Weber said of the Game 3 win. “We wanted to make sure everyone won their one-on-one matchups. It was a little inconsistent in game one and two. We were just as focused in the first two games as we were Saturday, but we got the shots and were able to capitalize on the opportunities, and it gave us a lot of life.”
Weber hasn’t wasted a lot of time on pep talks and plans to stick with the tough-but-smart play that got them into the playoffs.
“They know what they have to do,” Weber said. “The difference between having a series at 3-1 or 2-2 is huge. We know we can score on these guys. We’ve just got to be ready to go from the opening faceoff instead of taking a shift or two to get into things.”