CINCINNATI – And now the Eastern Conference Semifinals return to Memorial Coliseum for three games and, oddly, both teams are feeling confident with that scenario.
We’re feeling pretty good because our team is a lot better on the road than we are at home. We like playing on the road. It’ll be good to get a couple days off and get some rest, and hopefully we can take it them in their house, said Josh Shalla, who had two goals for the Cincinnati Cyclones in their 5-2 victory at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday night, which tied the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
The Cyclones, who were 41-23-8, went 24-9-3 on the road in the regular season. In the playoffs, they are 5-3, 3-0 on the road.
The Komets, who were 36-24-12 in the regular season, can relate to road success – they are 22-15-3 on the road, including a 2-2 record in the postseason.
But the Komets have found their groove at the Coliseum lately, winning 9 of 10 games. That includes three straight victories over the defending champion Reading Royals in the first round, after Fort Wayne split the pair on the road, in what was a similar series to this one so far.
We’re going to go back to The Fort and try to take advantage of our home ice there, Komets left wing Chris Auger said.
Games 3, 4 and 5 will be Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets for Game 5 go on sale at noon today at the Coliseum box office.
It’s a good thing for us (to have some off days). We’ve got to work on some things in practice, get back into the film room and do some improving, get some guys some rest. It will be good for us, Komets coach Gary Graham said.
The Komets would like to get their top line of Brandon Marino, the ECHL’s regular-season scoring champion, Auger and Scott Fleming going, after it had no goals, two assists and a combined minus-8 rating in the first two games of the series, which included a 2-1 victory in Game 1 on Friday.
To do that, Graham said, the Komets must prioritize possession of the puck through a gritty forecheck, instead of looking for the prettier goals.
It’s going to be a challenge (in Fort Wayne). They’re good at home, too, Cincinnati’s Dan Eves said. We can’t really pinpoint what our deal is; on the road, for whatever reason, we’ve had success. It’s been a crazy year.
The Komets need to solve goaltender Rob Madore, who has stopped 93.7 percent of the shots he’s faced in the series. Fort Wayne’s Ben Meisner has stopped 90.9 percent, 94.9 percent in the entire playoffs, but he’s coming off his first so-so game of 28 saves on 32 shots.
Graham never considered pulling him in favor of rookie Steven Summerhays, though.
We were really going to make a run at it in the third period, said Graham, whose team trailed 4-1 at the second intermission. And I knew if we were going to make a run at it, we’d still need Ben in there.
We got some better scoring chances there (including a Shawn Szydlowski goal). We played some high-risk stuff to do it. We gave up some odd-man rushes there to do it. But we had to be some riverboat gamblers to try and get back into it. We wanted to go down swinging and it was nice to see Szydlowski get rewarded there for all his hard work.
But we’ve just got to get better.