(15-13-4; 3rd in North Division)

With the season approaching the middle point, it’s time to check back in with the Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones. Since our last check-in, the team has largely remained in the middle of the pack, finding themselves in 9th place in the Eastern Conference. While just 1 point out of a playoff seed, the season remains young and there will be a long fight to remain in contention.

Since Christmas, the Cyclones have gone a respectable 5-3-0, splitting games against the Indy Fuel and the Kalamazoo Wings, while defeating the Wheeling Nailers and the Evansville IceMen. During this stretch, the Cyclones have been able to average just over 3 goals per game, without the services of some of their best offensive contributors. Florida Panthers prospects Andrew Yogan, Joe Basaraba, Wade Megan and Josh McFadden have all been called up to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage for well over a month now, while Predators prospect Zach Budish has been summoned to the Milwaukee Admirals. In addition, the Cyclones have recently lost the team’s second leading scorer Byron Froese on loan to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Froese was also just selected to the ECHL’s All-Star game in Orlando on January 21 and it is yet to be seen if he will participate.

Cyclones defeat the IceMan 5-2 on 12/29/14:

This roster decimation has been tough for the team, but some players have stepped up to fill in the absences. Predator’s prospect Josh Shalla leads the team in both goals (14) and points (27), while forwards David Pacan (15 points in 23 games) and Stephan Vigier (14 points in 27 games) have continued to contribute consistently. While some of the lost players should find themselves back in Cincinnati soon, the Cyclones will need to shuffle some lines or make a trade in order to shore themselves up for the playoff push.

On the defensive side, a majority of the players have remained reliable down the stretch. Defenseman Chris Reed leads the team in +/- with an impressive +15, while Shayne Taker and David MacDonald remain solid positive players. Unfortunately at the moment, MacDonald is the only defenseman contributing on the offensive side of the puck and the team will suffer from that. The 2 Nashville prospects on the blueline have largely been sub-par, with Mikko Vainonen owning a -8 rating and Jaynen Rissling maintaining the enforcer role, leading the team with 60 PIM’s in 19 games played.

The Cyclones hope to receive a spark from recent addition Mackenzie Weegar who was assigned from the San Antonio Rampage in order to get some more consistent playing time. After an impressive stint in the QMJHL racking up 111 points in 2 seasons, Weegar could provide that push to make up for the recently lost players.

Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon talking about Mackenzie Weegar:

Goaltending for the Cyclones has been steady enough where it isn’t too much of a concern. While not clear-cut, Panthers prospect Sam Brittain seems to be leading as the #1 option. He is currently sporting a 7-5-1 record, with a .906 save percentage. Brittain was also just called up to practice with the Panthers during a 4-day break and could benefit from the time spent with NHL All-Star Roberto Luongo. Back-up Rob Madore is not playing nearly at the level of last year when he led the Cyclones to the Kelly Cup. His record of 8-8-3 and 2 shutouts should guarantee him more chances, but the job is Brittain’s to lose as of now.

The Cyclones are next facing a favorable 5-game stretch, all against the IceMen and the Wings. With both of these teams behind Cincinnati in the standings, the Cyclones will need to win these games in order to keep Evansville and Kalamazoo out of the playoff picture, along with keeping pace for the final playoff seeds in the East. With more solid showings by Sam Brittain, and hopefully some players returning from the AHL, Cyclones fans can be hopeful looking further into 2015.

The Cyclones annual “Teddy Bear Toss” will put a smile on your face:

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