The Toledo Storm's February resurgence hit a snag last night in a sluggish performance at the Sports Arena against one of the teams it needs to pass in the standings to make the playoffs.
The Cincinnati Cyclones' 5-3 victory was hardly a thing of beauty, as the Storm scored on a short-handed goal and a power play to get back into the contest. The Cyclones, though, killed off a crucial power play early in the third period that could have tied the score and then scored the clincher with less than six minutes remaining.
“Our specialty teams have not played well recently and they didn't play well tonight, either,” said Cincinnati coach Ray Edwards, sounding more relieved than celebratory. “But we killed the power play when we really needed it.”
Toledo coach Dennis Holland, said it was hard to hide his disappointment with his Storm riding a five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2) going into last night's game.
“We've played six games in eight nights and from our goalie on, we weren't on the same page tonight,” Holland said. “We battled hard but it was just one of those nights.”
Despite Cincinnati peppering Toledo rookie goalie Joey MacDonald with several shots on an early power play, the Storm managed to take a 1-0 lead on Alexandre Jacques' put-back shot off the pads of Cyclone goalie Alex Westlund with 10:01 remaining in the first period.
Curtis Huppe, though, tied the score 11/2 minutes later with a high shot ripped from top of the right faceoff circle. In the second period, Ryan O'Keefe then drilled another goal past MacDonald, this time near the right blue line with 17:23 left, for a 2-1 Cyclone lead.
“I'm sure [MacDonald] would like to have those back, especially the first one,” Edwards said. “After that Westlund really started to play well for us and made some big saves. I think that gave us some good momentum.”
Allan Egeland trickled one past MacDonald with 9:09 remaining in the second period for a 3-1 lead. Jacques scored his second goal short-handed , beating Westlund at the 5:35 mark, and trimming the lead to 3-2.
Both teams scored before the period ended: Cincinnati's Matt Noga with 3:15 left and Toledo's Kevin Kerr on the power play with 1:07 remaining.
Egeland was penalized for interference with 17:51 remaining in the game, but Cyclone defenders forced play away from the goal to foil Toledo's best chance to tie.
Cincinnati's clincher came with 5:45 left on Mike Henderson's goal against replacement goalie Steve Briere. Moments before the goal, a collision on the Cyclones' end of the ice sent the puck sailing high and appeared to hit either the light or the rafter.
While Storm players appealed for a whistle from the referee, play continued. The Cyclones took advantage at the other end and scored.
“It hit part of the rafter,” Holland said. “The referee told me he didn't blow the whistle because he wasn't sure and that was a big blow. They got a 2-1 advantage and we never recovered. Ten seconds later they got a goal. We hadn't played well up to that point, but 4-3 is a lot closer than 5-3.”
Edwards agreed with Holland, but credited the Cyclones for playing through the moment of confusion.
“Dennis was right,” Edwards said. “There probably should have been a whistle. I don't know how much time elapsed from that to the goal, but we continued to play and got the goal.”
NOTES: Holland said MacDonald will not play tonight against Roanoke (7:30 p.m., Sports Arena, 1230 AM) because of the pulled groin he sustained in last night's game. ... Toledo now has a 5-3-3 record in February. ... The Storm falls to 1-9-0 this season when trailing after two periods. ... Jacques' two goals give him 22 for the season, four behind Richard Keyes.