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Sports

Cincinnati Cyclones head back to playoffs following year away from the ice

playoff preview (1).JPG
Tony Bailey
/
Cincinnati Cyclones
The Cincinnati Cyclones will face their in-state foe Toledo Walleye on Friday. While the Cyclones clinched a playoff spot with the last spot in the Western Conference, the Walleye won the Brabham Cup, finishing at the top of ECHL with 102 points.

The Cincinnati Cyclones will face the ECHL's winningest team in the first round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs this Friday.

After finishing at the top of the division in the 2019-2020 season, the Cyclones were forced to sit out a year due to financial constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, Cincinnati returned to the ice this year and clinched the last spot in the Western Conference to make the playoffs.

Andrew Mossbrooks is the Cyclones play-by-play announcer. He says the biggest thing about the playoffs is that it can act as a reset, even though the Toledo Walleye will pose a tough matchup.

"Forget about the 7-1 loss that you had in their building in March, it doesn't matter now," Mossbrooks said. "It doesn't matter that they were the only team with 102 points. It doesn't matter that they were the team with the most wins at 49 out of 72 games. If they lose Game 1, all of a sudden they're on their heels."

Only five original players have returned from the 2019-20 Cyclones roster for this season and only three are still on the team. Just this year, 55 players have cycled through the franchise. One of the returning players, Jesse Schultz, is the team's leading scorer with 71 points.

"It's amazing that this guy finds the fountain of youth every year," Mossbrooks said. "He's 39 years old, he's in his 18th professional season. It is not easy to continue to do what he does and yet, there he is doing it."

Other players leading the way for the 'Clones include team captain Justin Vaive and team leading goal scorer Zack Andrusiak.

Head Coach Jason Payne will end his first year at the helm with a chance to win it all for Cincinnati. When he was promoted from assistant to head coach, he became the only Black coach in North American professional men's hockey. Despite having to manage a team with few returning players, Mossbrooks says Payne made sure to get the right people involved to create a connected unit.

"When you have that right away, the bonding happens, the brotherhood happens, they want to play for each other, and I think that gets you up for games," Mossbrooks said. "You want to be there for your teammates, they're like a family to you."

On Friday at 7:35 p.m., the Cyclones will play the Walleye in Toledo in the first game of a best of seven series. Games three, four, and five (if necessary) will be held at the Heritage Bank Center. The puck drops for those games at 7:35 p.m. as well. Games will be streamed on FloHockey. Each home game will have beers for $1.