The Detroit Red Wings aren't the only hockey team trailing a playoff series they were favored to win.
The Storm finds itself in a similar, but worse position following a 4-2 setback to Cincinnati last evening at the Sports Arena.
Like Detroit, Toledo is down two games to none. Unlike the parent Wings who still have five more chances to win four games against Anaheim, the Storm must now sweep the Cyclones to claim the Northwest Division's best-of-five Kelly Cup finals.
Coming on the heels of Friday's 2-1 loss, Brabham Cup champion Toledo, which finished with 104 points during the regular season, now has dropped consecutive games on home ice for the first time all season.
“There will be a period of time here when we'll be disappointed,” Storm coach Claude Noel said. “Quite frankly, I think it's good that we'll be disappointed.”
There was no disappointment at the start.
Toledo began with a goal just 14 seconds after the opening faceoff. Matt Ellis came from behind the net, spun and let loose a wrister that gave the Storm its first and only lead of the series.
The next three belonged to the visitors. Aaron Brand and ex-Storm winger Jason Norrie answered in the first period and another former Storm winger, Mike Casselman, scored in the second.
“It was the same thing with the [semi-final round] Peoria series [when the Cyclones, who finished 24 points behind the Rivermen during the regular season, jumped on the opposition early],” Norrie said. “When you win that first game, it gives you something; you want that second game.”
What Toledo wants and needs right now more than anything is to get its power-play going. The Storm was 0-for-5 last evening, matching the output from Friday.
The Cyclones went 2-for-6 in the Game No. 2 victory.
“Geez, we've got traffic everywhere,” Noel said. “Do you think we could keep 'em down below the knees? All the shots we're getting are up around the pants. It's like hitting walls. There's no one to blame but ourselves.
“You've got to find a way to execute to get it done. That's the bottom line.”
Said Ellis: “The one thing they're doing really well is taking away shooting lanes. That's something that we had addressed and coming into Tuesday's [third] game, that's something we're going to have to watch for.”
Ellis watched his second of the night go in at 1:33 of the third, cutting the score to 3-2. His shot from the slot clipped the underside of the cross-bar and gave Toledo some hope.
The Storm pulled goaltender Doug Teskey for an extra attacker with 1:28 remaining and then tried to make it a two-man advantage by calling for a measurement of goaltender Greg Hewitt's stick.
It was deemed legal and Toledo was hit with a delay of game penalty. Nick Bootland closed out the scoring with a power-play, empty-netter.
“We talked about it in the dressing room after the game,” Cincinnati coach Malcolm Cameron said.
“The last time I looked, you have to win three to win a series. We're not going to take anything for granted. We haven't done anything yet.”
If Toledo should win on Tuesday, Game No. 4 will be Wednesday, also in the Queen City. Should the Storm pull a pair of upsets, Game No. 5 will be back at the Sports Arena on Saturday.
“It's a huge disappointment,” Noel said.
“On the other hand, the third game of any series, or the last game of any series is the toughest game to win. We're going to make sure we throw everything at them, because we're focused on winning that game Tuesday.”