Sports Vault: The Cyclones put Cincinnati back on the hockey map in 2008 with an ECHL title

And city had its first pro sports title since '90

CINCINNATI -- Champagne flew and cigar smoke wafted through the air of the home locker room at US Bank Arena on June 5, 2008: There was nothing minor league about the celebration for the new ECHL champion Cincinnati Cyclones.

Cincinnati had beaten the Las Vegas Wranglers 3-1 in Game 6 of the Kelly Cup Finals that night, giving Cincinnati its first pro sports championship since the Reds won the World Series in 1990.

 

"This town has been dying for a champion since 1990, a hockey champion since 1973," then-Cyclones coach Chuck Weber said that night. "So now we're so proud of the fact we were able to make a winner of Cincinnati. I couldn't be more proud of these guys and our fans."

The 2008 title was Cincinnati's seventh hockey championship, and No. 8 came two years later when Cincinnati again hoisted the Kelly Cup in 2010.

"I think this puts us back on the hockey map," Weber said.

 

The IHL Cincinnati Mohawks won five straight titles from 1953-1957 as the top minor league affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. In that span, Montreal won three Stanley Cup titles. The AHL Cincinnati Swords won the last hockey title for Cincinnati in 1973.

Cyclones players pose for a team photo after winning the 2008 ECHL Kelly Cup.

The Cyclones also became the first Cincinnati pro sports team to clinch a championship in Hamilton County since the Mohawks beat the Troy Bruins in a Game 7 on April 3, 1955, at the Cincinnati Gardens.

The previous six local titles were won on the road, the previous three by the Reds. Cincinnati completed World Series four-game sweeps at Oakland in 1990 and New York in 1976 after outlasting the Red Sox in a classic Game 7 in Boston in 1975.

Prior to that, the Mohawks had clinched in 1957 at Indianapolis and 1956 at Toledo-Marion. The Swords' clincher over Nova Scotia in 1973 was technically a home game, but it took place in Buffalo because the home rink was not available.

Of the now 13 pro championships won by teams representing the city of Cincinnati, just four were clinched at home -- the Cyclones in 2008 and 2010, the Mohawks in 1955 and the Reds' World Series Championship in 1940 over Detroit.

The 2007-08 Cyclones were not only streak-busters, they were record-breakers. Cincinnati set an ECHL record with its 15th straight regular-season win on Feb. 23, 2008, beating the Elmira Jackals in a 5-4 shootout.

The Cyclones scored 115 points to win the Brabham Cup for the regular-season championship and Weber was named ECHL coach of the year. David Desharnais was the ECHL Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year, and he led the league in scoring with 29 goals and 77 assists for 106 points.

"From Day 1 we knew we were special," Weber said. "But these guys grabbed on to it with both hands. They were unreal. I couldn't be more proud of that group of guys."

The Cyclones celebrate their 2008 Kelly Cup victory.

Cincinnati swept the Johnstown Chiefs in the opening round of the playoffs and then beat the Reading Royals in seven games to win the North Division playoff title. The Cyclones beat the South Carolina Stingrays in five games to win the American Conference championship and take home the E.A. "Bud" Gingher Memorial Trophy. Cincinnati won Game 5 of that series, 2-1, in overtime, to move on to the Kelly Cup Finals.

National Conference champion Las Vegas earned a split in the first two games of the finals at US Bank Arena, but the Cyclones won Game 3 and Game 5 to set up the magical night at home during Game 6.

The crowd of 12,722 was the largest playoff crowd in the history of the ECHL and the Cyclones. The Cincinnati team had a total attendance of 54,289 for the playoffs: That was then the 11th largest total in league playoff history, even though the Cyclones ranked 23rd out of 25 teams in regular-season attendance.

The Wranglers had tied the game at 1-1 with a power-play goal 18:39 into the second period. Las Vegas' Adam Cracknell found the net with 1:21 remaining before intermission. That goal ended a streak of 132:25 -- nearly two games' worth of time -- without a goal allowed by Cyclones goalie Cedrick Desjardins.

Cyclones forward Matt Syroczynski scored a power-play goal less than a minute into the third period to give the Cyclones the lead for good at 2-1.

Defenseman Jon Gleed's goal with 13:08 remaining was good for a 3-1 lead and inspired a chant of "We want the cup."

The Cyclones played most of the final three minutes of the second period down two players -- but the team held on.

Desjardins was named Finals Most Valuable player.

Cyclones goalie Cedrick Desjardins was the Finals MVP.

"I started here, I was expecting to be here," Desjardins said. "I was hoping to be in the American League, but when I saw Chuck he told me we were going to get a good team this year. I think it was higher than our expectation, but all the guys here worked for it."

Cincinnati did it again two years later, that time surging through the playoffs after a second-place finish in the American Conference North Division. The Cyclones finished off the Idaho Steelheads in the 2010 Kelly Cup Finals in five games for the second title in three years.

Mathieu Aubin, Barret Ehgoetz and Scott Reynolds -- who did not play in the 2010 playoffs because of an injury -- were on both championship teams.

"You can imagine it, but it's a lot of work and it's a long way to do it," Ehgoetz said after Game 5 in 2010. "There was times when it didn't look like we would come through, but just credit all the guys. We battled.

"They're both great feelings. Two great teams, very different and very unique teams," he said. "It was great to go through it with two different groups of guys."

The ECHL Championship Kelly Cup.

Forward Dustin Sproat, who was out of hockey two years prior, was the leading scorer in the playoffs for the 2010 Kelly Cup champions with 11 goals and 21 points.

"It's just an unbelievable feeling," Sproat said. "From Day 1, we knew we were going to have to battle. It's just an unbelievable group of guys. We had somebody new step up about each and every night and it's just been a wild ride."

Game 5 drew 13,483 in 2010 to break the 2008 Game 6 attendance record.

The Cyclones returned to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2014, but fell in six games to the Alaska Aces.

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