Cincinnati's David MacDonald battles Toledo's Kyle Rogers for the puck. Cincinnati’s coach says MacDonald is a leader.
CINCINNATI — Jarrod Skalde isn't the ECHL coach of the year just for keeping track of all the players he's coached this season, not that that isn't an achievement.
Skalde, the Cyclones' third-year coach, is coach of the year in large part because whomever dressed on a given night gave the effort the club expects. The Cyclones went 42-22-8, won the ECHL North Division title with 92 points, a 13-point improvement from last season, and have a first-round playoff series against Toledo beginning later today.
"I really like where our group is at," Skalde said. "In a league where everything fluctuates week to week and month to month, right now we're right where we need to be."
Roster churn is a staple of minor-league hockey, but the Cyclones have had more movement than most. Among 32 players, 558 man-games were lost to the Cyclones, mostly to AHL affiliates Milwaukee and San Antonio.
Through it all there has been one constant, Skalde said: a core group that makes sure that through all the transactions, the club's culture isn't lost in translation. That culture boils down to putting in the work and paying attention to detail.
Skalde's leadership group includes forwards Mathieu Aubin, Dan Eves, and Mike Pelech and defenseman David MacDonald.
"I give them a tremendous amount of credit," Skalde said. "It's not easy when you have new people almost daily, weekly, monthly. They were the ones who made sure they were welcome in our locker room, that guys who were here five, 10, 15 games felt they were part of the group.
"But they also made them aware that some things here are non-negotiable. They made it clear how we want to do things as a group, how the Cincinnati Cyclones are going to play."
Cincinnati won the division despite putting no player among the top 25 in the ECHL in points (Aubin's 56 points leads the club).
The best-of-seven series begins with games today and Saturday in Toledo, but Skalde isn't overly concerned with starting on the road. The Cyclones were 20-11-3-2 away from U.S. Bank Arena this season.