CINCINNATI – The Cyclones are packing their bags and searching for answers after an 8-4 loss at home to the Road Warriors means they'll have to take care of business on the road.
The visiting squad from Greenville, South Carolina scored five straight goals, including three shorthanded tallies in third period Tuesday nigh to defeat the Cyclones in a back-and-forth affair in front of a crowd of 2,127 at U.S. Bank Arena.
The outcome tied the Eastern Conference Finals at 1-all, forcing to the Cyclones to win at least one on the road if they hope to earn their third trip to the ECHL championship round since 2008. They won the Kelly Cup in both 2008 and 2010.
Coming off a dominant 4-1 win in Game 1 , Cincinnati fell behind 2-0 early on goals by Greenville’s Sean Berkstresser and Justin Vaive.
The Road Warriors' aggressive defense and forecheck limited the 'Clones scoring chances early, actually holding them without a single shot on goal for the first 14 minutes.
Despite being outshot and outplayed early, the Cyclones got on the board at 14:32 when Josh Shalla converted his team’s first shot attempt into a goal. Shalla, hot off his Game 1 hat trick, fired a shot that snuck past backup goalkeeper Jeff Malcolm (20 saves) for his team-leading ninth goal of the playoffs.
Forward Wade Megan knotted up the score at 2-2 two minutes later by besting Malcolm, who was making just his third start of the postseason (2-1). He was filling in for starting goalie Jason Missiaen who struggled Monday night.
The team’s exchanged goals early in the second period, starting at 1:39 when Greenville’s Josh Nicholls poked a puck past goalie Rob Madore (20 of 27 saves) who had a goals-against average of less than 1.80 coming into the contest.
Cyclones defenseman Brett Wysopal responded 63 second with a slapshot from the blue line to tie the score at 3.
Logan Shaw notched his third goal of the postseason on an odd-man rush two minutes after Wysopal’s equalizer to give Cincinnati its first and only lead, 4-3. The Cyclones scored four times on their first eight shots.
Intensity ratcheted up over the final 20 minutes, with both teams exchanging power play opportunities throughout the stanza. At times it seemed as though the Cyclones were pressing to get an insurance goal while playing a man-up, creating various shorthanded scoring chances for Greenville.
And the Road Warriors took advantage of most of those opportunities.
Though Cincinnati began the third period on the power play, it was Greenville that found the back of the net, netting the game-tying goal from Jordie Johnston, his third of the postseason, at 1:06.
Nicholls scored the Road Warriors' second shorthanded goal just before the 11-minute mark to give his side a 5-4 lead. Johnston pushed the advantage to two goals six minutes later when he tallied his second goal of the night while the Cyclones were playing with an extra man on the ice.
Road Warriors' forward Scott Arnold added an empty netter at 18:27 and Bretton Stamler scored the final goal of the night 33 second later with Madore back in net.
Tied at 1-1, the series now shifts to South Carolina for the next three games of the best-of-seven series. The Cyclones need at least one win to force the action back to Cincinnati for Game 6 (and Game 7, if necessary).
While most teams would look at losing home ice advantage as a negative, that's not necessarily the case for Cincinnati, which has been one of the best teams on the road all season, especially during the postseason. They've won seven of their last eight overall, including five of six during the playoffs.
Statistically speaking, the Cyclones are actually a better team on the road than they are at home.
Four of their five postseason losses this year have come on the banks of the Ohio River. In fact, at one point during the regular season the 'Clones lost six straight and nine out of 10 at the supposedly friendly confines of U.S. Bank Arena.
But for the first time this postseason the team faces a situation where picking up a win on the road is a essentially a must.
Game 3 will take place Thursday night at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville. The opening puck is scheduled to drop at 7 p.m., with pre-game coverage starting on the Cyclones Radio Network at 6:30 p.m.
Should a sixth game be necessary in this series, the Cyclones would return to U.S. Bank Arena on Tuesday, May 27 to host the Road Warriors at 7:30 p.m.