CINCINNATI, Ohio –This was a tilt that was bound to happen between these two squads. The chippiness was evident from the opening face-off as the rivalry was re-joined as if all those intervening years had disappeared. The defenses tightened up as both teams sensed the urgency and significance of this game three in the best of seven series.
The first period featured controlling the up ice rushes of the opposition as the Cyclones held the Bears to just seven shots on goal against starting netminder Rob Madore. The Floridians did no worse in keeping the home team off of the scoreboard despite a doubling of shots (15) on starter Max Clermont.
Pushing and shoving threatened to erupt in fisticuffs on several occasions.
The ‘Clones kept pressure on Clermont for most of the first and he made several critical saves to keep the game scoreless. The Cyclones defense kept the Bears forwards, Jacob Cepis, Mickey Lang and Tyler Murovich at bay with good checking and grinding in the corners.
When the middle stanza was enjoined more offense from both squads ensued.
But then the nastiness factor was jacked up as well.
There was an increase in crashing both creases and the goalies felt pressure more often than they had in the opening period.
Madore and Clermont battled save for save into the depths of the period until the Cyclones’ Jonathan Hazen solved the puzzle of the Bears defense and put the biscuit in the basket with 11:14 to go before intermission.
Penalty time and power plays began to pile up towards the end of the period as scrums and take downs occurred in both creases with the Solar Bears being given the most opportunities.
Yet Madore remained solid in net and received great defensive support from the Cyclones blueliners, Chris Reed, Brett Wysopal and Mike Dalhuisen.
The visitors were given a great opportunity to even the score with just over two minutes remaining in the period when the ‘Clones were whistled for too many men on the ice and Josh Shalla served the time in the sin bin.
The penalty kill unit was flawless and the period ended with the Cyclones up by one to none.
Orlando came out of the locker room in the third as if on fire. The Cyclones Devon Krogh tangled with the Bears Wade Macleod and both were sent to the box on roughing minors.
Not soon after the Cyclones Chris Reed was tagged for holding and Orlando went on a four-on-three power play.
The penalty kill unit was once again front and center and did a marvelous job keeping the score at one to nil.
At 13:20 of the period the Solar Bears Mickey Lang refused to give up in the Cyclones crease and slid the rubber behind Madore to even the score at one apiece to the chagrin of the Cyclones fans. Assists on the tally were credited to Mike Ullrich and Bryce Aneloski.
So much for the shutout and with not much time left on the clock the ‘Clones roared back with 3:25 left in regulation as Byron Froese stole the puck in the Orlando slot and buried a slapper past a surprised Clermont to give Cincinnati the winning edge it needed. Froese was mobbed by teammates in the Orlando end to the disgust of the Bears defensemen.
The Bears pulled Clermont in the final minute to no avail as the Cyclones tightened and helped Madore gain his third win in as many games.
Coach Ben Simons’ crew celebrated at center ice and saluted the fans exuberantly as time expired.
The three stars of the game were- #3 Orlando forward Mickey Lang, #2 Cincinnati netminder Rob Madore and the #1 star was given to the Cyclones Byron Froese for scoring the game winner.
Both teams will meet for game four on Friday night again at US Bank Arena with the Cyclones having the opportunity to end the series on home ice.