Zack Andrusiak, Justin Vaive, and Louie Caporusso combined for three goals and seven points to lead Cincinnati to a bounce-back performance, topping the Wheeling Nailers, 5-1 in front of 7,922 fans at Heritage Bank Center Saturday night.
The 'Clones are up to 97 points and a 44-13-6-3 record, remaining four points in front of Toledo for the top seed in the Central Division. The Wheeling loss both eliminated the Nailers from playoff contention and subsequently allowed Fort Wayne to cinch a playoff berth, joining Indy, Toledo, and Cincinnati in the four-team Central Division field.
- The Cyclones got the sour taste of Friday’s game out of their mouths just 53 seconds into action. Sean Allen started the opportunity by whipping a shot from the blue line onto Nailer goalie Tommy Napier. Napier made the save, but Justin Vaive – who was screening for Allen on the play – snared the rebound on the backside of his stick and flicked it past Napier’s left leg for his team-leading 31st goal of the year.
- “I’m just playing my game and keeping it simple,” Allen, who has back-to-back multi-point outings for the first time in his career, said postgame. “I’m playing hard, doing what’s best for me [to] help the team win.”
- Wheeling answered just under four minutes later. Their leading goal scorer, Cedric Desruisseaux, came streaking down the right wing as teammate Matt Koopman played the puck off the boards. The Warwick, Quebec native then rifled a shot through a sliver of space between Sinclair’s shoulder and the near corner of the net to tie things up.
- Fighting for their playoff lives, the Nailers came out of first intermission with the upper hand, recording eight of the second period’s first nine shots and burying the puck in the Cyclone defensive zone for long stretches on multiple occasions. But as the period waned, the ‘Clones settled in, found their moments, and struck twice in quick succession to regain and extend the lead.
- Caporusso (23) provided the initial push. Carrying the puck through neutral ice, he located Zack Andrusiak on the blue line before darting to the net front. Andrusiak then went cross-ice to Vaive on the left wing, who served it back to Caporusso on a platter in the heart of the crease for a top-shelf finish to make it 2-1 with 5:07 left in the period.
- A hair over two minutes later, it was Brandon Yeamans who joined the scoring party. The 24-year-old forward, playing game two of stint two with Cincinnati during the 2022-23 campaign, found a vacated space in the slot and scooped home a pass from Lee Lapid for his fourth goal of the season (and third in a Cyclones jersey).
- Andrusiak capped off his three-point night with an opening minute goal in the third, beating Nappier down-low, before defenseman Steven MacLean added a goal later in the frame. Forward Nick Nardella, making his ECHL debut, recorded his first career point by assisting MacLean at the 13:23 mark.
- Mark Sinclair stood tall all night, surviving both the second period push from Wheeling, as well as the team's third period charge, where the Nailers shoved 21 shots on goal. The rookie goaltender turned aside five Wheeling power plays en route to picking up his 18th win of the season with a 39-save effort. Sinclair has won his last 11 decisions in goal.
- The Cyclones host the Nailers Sunday afternoon in the season series finale at 3pm. This is the team's annual Sensory Friendly Game, meaning decreased stimulation in both audio and video elements used throughout the game.