By Shawn Rine
Ohio Sports Editor
The Intelligencer & Wheeling News Register
WHEELING, W.Va. – To be a champion, you have to be able to take care of your business on the road. The Cincinnati Cyclones have proven they have the ability to do both.
Dustin Sproat and Jacob Dietrich (pictured) each scored a pair of goals and Loic Lacasse stopped 30 of 33 shots Saturday night, as the Cyclones routed the Wheeling Nailers by a 7-3 count in Game 3 of the North Division Semifinals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs at WesBanco Arena. The Nailers still lead the series 2-1, with Wednesday night’s Game 4 awaiting.
”We led the league in road wins,” Cincinnati coach Chuck Weber said. ”We need to make sure we continue that.
”This is a tough barn to play in, so we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared to come out and give it another solid effort on Wednesday.”
For everything Coach Greg Puhalski’s Nailers did correctly in Games 1 and 2 on Thursday and Friday in Cincinnati, they were equally ineffective in this one. Rebounds weren’t cleared in front of the net, and the puck continually wound up in the wrong places on the ice – both issues the coach has addressed ad nauseum this season.
”We coughed up the puck quite a bit,” he said. ”More than that, I thought they just hustled more and competed harder than we did.
”I was surprised at the way we took care of the puck – we were careless with it all night.”
And the Cyclones were more than willing to make them pay, scoring nearly at will. Wheeling goaltender Curtis Darling had stopped 70 of 72 shots in the series coming in, and another 15 to begin Game 3 before Cincinnati turned the momentum with an unassisted Sproat goal, his first of the series, off a turnover with 19 seconds remaining in the first period to answer Boomer Ewing’s second for the Nailers.
”Us getting that goal at the end of the period gave us some momentum; we finally won a period,” Weber said.
Thirty seconds into the second, and a mere 3 seconds into a Kelly Miller roughing penalty, the Cyclones had their first lead of the series when Matt Syroczynski picked up a rebound and notched his second of the series. Each of his goals has come with the man advantage.
”I think what I was most disappointed in, is for the last couple games we had every single guy on the team contributing in some area,” Puhalski said. ”We didn’t have that.
”Half of our guys played well, and the other half were ineffective.”
Wheeling got back to within one when Ewing charged out of the corner and muscled his way in for a backhander that was turned aside, but Billy Ryan was there on the other end for a rebound and a power-play goal.
However, Faulkner, Sproat and Dietrich connected on consecutive goals to make it 7-2 before Jordan Morrison wristed home his second late with the game already decided.
Tempers flared, as they have throughout the series, with fights occurring between Johnson and Wheeling’s Andrew Lord, then with Gerard Miller (Cincinnati) and Wheeling captain Aaron Clarke. The rough play has been a staple of the Cyclones in the three games, but this time they got the results to go with it.
”The big thing is, we always want to try to impose our will on the other team,” Weber said. ”I thought we did a good job of that.”