Written by Braden Ramsey
An outstanding month of February has rolled almost completely through the entirety of March for the Cincinnati Cyclones. A gritty 2-1 victory over Fort Wayne on Sunday afternoon allowed them to surpass the 2007-08 Kelly Cup Champion ‘Clones for the longest point streak (18 games) in franchise history. According to Justin Vaive, Cincinnati’s netminder was a big reason for the streak living on.
“The easy answer: Mark Sinclair,” the captain said postgame. “He has been a great addition back there this year, and has proven it even more this last bit… he was an animal all weekend.”
The last piece may have been an understatement. With Beck Warm, the ECHL leader in victories (24) unavailable due to wisdom teeth removal, Sinclair was faced with the unenviable task of working the crease for three games in three days.
The results? They speak for themselves:
- 3/17 vs. Iowa: 29 SV, 1 GA, W
- 3/18 vs. Iowa: 23 SV, 2 GA, W
- 3/19 vs. Fort Wayne: 34 SV, 1 GA, W
For those of you who didn’t come here to do math, that’s 86 saves on 90 shots (95.6 SV%). With his most impressive performance coming in the third leg.
A third leg in which the Komets, the ECHL’s leader in shots on goal per game, went on the power play with 3:12 remaining in period three.
On which they recorded two shots, then pulled goalie Ryan Fanti 80 seconds later to create a de facto six-on-four for 40 seconds and man advantage for the final 1:12 of regulation.
Fort Wayne proceeded to fire off nine additional shots in the last 1:03, including four over the final 11 ticks. Sinclair stood tall, and stopped them all.
Talk about rising to the occasion.
The embodiment of team-centric, Sinclair continued to keep the focus on his teammates’ contributions toward the weekend of winning rather than his own.
“They made my job pretty easy,” he said after Sunday’s affair. “The guys were blocking quite a few shots… it was a great team effort.”
Again, the last portion may have been an understatement. With Kohen Olischefski and Matt Cairns both receiving AHL call-ups after Saturday night’s game, the Cyclones were missing major pieces from every position group for their weekend finale. Many guys laughed about the locker room “looking a little light” as they arrived Sunday afternoon. But through the wear and tear of those other two games, they managed to rally, get the job done and reclaim sole possession of first place in the Central division.
“It’s good to experience adversity. It shows what the team is made of,” Patrick Polino, who has recorded 11 points in his last six games, stated over the weekend. “The guys have to come together and really fight for wins. We’ve done that a couple times during this stretch and that’s important going forward.”
Despite being slotted atop the Central amid this impressive streak, this Cyclones squad feels it’s flying a bit under the radar. One of their biggest rivals, the Toledo Walleye, has run off 18 consecutive wins over essentially the same stretch of time encompassing their own point streak, and could inch even closer to the ECHL’s all-time best winning streak with a positive result versus Reading on Friday night. For this reason, Toledo is quite literally overshadowing Cincinnati league-wide.
But that might not be such a bad thing. In fact, Vaive says it’s “definitely better”. And if there’s one thing that’s abundantly clear, this team doesn’t really care about garnering a bunch of attention. Their eyes are locked on a larger prize.
The Kelly Cup was in Heritage Bank Center throughout the weekend’s three game set. Playing at the top of their game, the Cyclones are well-positioned to make HBC its permanent residence beginning in June.