GREENVILLE, S.C. - The Cyclones broke a recent trend by scoring first, but it was the Road Warriors’ ability to score late and often that proved to be the difference in Saturday night’s Eastern Conference Finals showdown.
Forward Sean Berkstresser scored on a power play just under four minutes into overtime to lift the Warriors to a 3-2 home win over the 'Clones in Game 4 of the back-and-forth series.
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The victory in front of 3,240 fans at Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
It was three days after Jonathan Hazen scored 16 seconds into overtime to give the Cyclones a 5-4 win over the Road Warriors in the third game.
Saturday’s extra period started with back-to-back Cincinnati penalties – first Devon Krogh for interference and then Brian Nugent for delay of game.
Playing 5-on-3 hockey, Berkstresser controlled a rebound that came free at the side of the net and pushed the puck past goaltender Rob Madore for his third goal of the playoffs, completing Greenville's 3-2 come-from-behind win.
The Road Warriors didn’t get on the board until 6:51 of the third period when Josh Nicholls fired a loose puck past Madore who stopped 41 of 43 shots he faced, including 16 in the third period alone.
The Cyclones answered back at 14:33 when a lob play from center ice deflected off leading scorer Bryan Froese in front of the goal crease, hopped over goalkeeper Jeff Malcolm’s shoulder and went into the net.
In desperation mode, Greenville kept up the pressure for the remainder of the period but it wasn’t until the 1:42 mark that Jordie Johnston caught a puck from Andrew Yogan in the high slot and sniped in the game-tying tally.
While the end of the game didn’t go their way, the beginning snapped a trend of early-game struggles by the Cyclones.
For the first time in the series, they managed to open the scoring as Wade Megan buried a wrist shot through Malcolm’s legs just 1:34 into the contest. It was his ninth in 16 games this postseason.
Coming into the series the 'Clones were 7-3 during the playoffs when scoring first.
Cincinnati momentarily pushed the advantage to two goals early in the second period when a shot from Froese rang past Malcolm’s shoulder and appeared to hit the top shelf of the net.
But after a long conference, officials waved off what would have been the 23-year-old's eighth playoff goal, stating that it ricocheted off of the crossbar and didn’t cross the goal line.
Malcolm was strong the rest of the night, making 27 saves in total.
The teams won’t have to wait long to take the ice again. They’ll hook up in Game 5 Sunday afternoon at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The opening face-off is set for 3 p.m.
Pregame coverage starting on the Cyclones Radio Network at 2:30 p.m.
The Cyclones will return to U.S. Bank Arena on Tuesday, May 27 to host the Road Warriors in Game 6 of the series at 7:30 p.m.