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2023 Kelly Cup Playoffs

ECHL Central Division Final: Cincinnati Cyclones vs. Toledo Walleye

ECHL Central Division Final: Cincinnati Cyclones vs. Toledo Walleye

CINCINNATI, Ohio – The top two teams in the Central Division begin their best-of-seven round two series Friday.  The top-seeded Cincinnati Cyclones and second place Toledo Walleye will duke it out in a rematch of the Battle of the Buckeye State.  Postseason matchups between the Ohio foes have become commonplace in recent years.

These two teams faced each other in the Central Division Semifinals last year, a series that took all seven games to determine a victor.  Toledo came out on top.  After eliminating the Cyclones, the Walleye went on to defeat the Wheeling Nailers and Utah Grizzlies before falling 4-1 to the Florida Everblades in the Kelly Cup Final.  The teams also met up in 2019.  Toledo took that series 4-1, eventually advancing to the Kelly Cup Final, where they fell 4-2 to the Newfoundland Growlers.

The last time Cincy took the Ohio postseason series was 2013, when they defeated Toledo 4-2 in round two.  The Cyclones went on to face the eventual Kelly Cup champion Reading Royals, dropping that series in five games.

Final Regular Season Records

Cincinnati: 47-16-6-3, 103 points (2nd in Western Conference, 2nd in ECHL)
Toledo: 45-19-5-3, 98 points (3rd in Western Conference, 3rd in ECHL)

How They Got Here

Cincinnati: Defeated Fort Wayne Komets 4-3 in Central Division Semifinals
Toledo: Defeated Indy Fuel 4-0 in Central Division Semifinals

Series Schedule

Game 1: Friday, May 5 – Toledo at CINCINNATI – 7:35 pm ET
Game 2: Saturday, May 6 – Toledo at CINCINNATI – 7:35 pm ET
Game 3: Wednesday, May 10 – Cincinnati at TOLEDO – 7:15 pm ET
Game 4: Friday, May 12 – Cincinnati at TOLEDO – 7:15 pm ET
*Game 5: Saturday, May 13 – Cincinnati at TOLEDO – 7:15 pm ET
*Game 6: Tuesday, May 16 – Toledo at CINCINNATI – 7:35 pm ET
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 17 – Toledo at CINCINNATI – 7:35 pm ET
*If Necessary

Season Series Recap

The regular season series between Cincinnati and Toledo was relatively evenly matched.  The Cyclones won six games, while the Walleye won five.  The scoring was even, with both teams notching 33 total goals.  Toledo’s Brandon Hawkins led both teams with 14 points (six goals, eight assists), with Cincy’s Zack Andrusiak close behind with 13 (six goals, seven assists).  In net, Beck Warm carried the load for the Cyclones, earning five of his team’s six wins.  John Lethemon (three wins) and Sebastian Cossa (two victories) split time for the Walleye.

As is expected with in-state rivals, things got a bit heated at times during the regular season, and several games were riddled with fights and/or near-fights.  After a tame first game that saw only four minor penalties called, both teams heated things up for much of the remainder of the season, combining for a grand total of 146 infractions and 397 minutes assessed.

How Cincinnati Wins

Continue to rely on Warm between the pipes.  He was reliable against Toledo in the regular season and had the better numbers in the division semifinals against Fort Wayne (226 saves, 1.89 goals against average, 0.950 save percentage).

Be more disciplined.  Against the Komets, the Cyclones racked up 240 penalty minutes and gave their opponents 38 power plays.  The Walleye had an excellent power play unit during the regular season at nearly 25%, and it has gotten even better during the postseason (36.8% in four games).

How Toledo Wins

Take advantage of Cincinnati’s fatigue.  Toledo swept Indy, allowing the team to rest and recover from any injuries they may have incurred.  The Komets came back from a 3-1 deficit to force a game seven Wednesday, giving the Cyclones only one day of rest between rounds.  After such a rough series with Fort Wayne, Cincy will likely be banged up, and will have no recovery time before starting all over again.

Utilize special teams.  The Walleye are the better team when it comes to both power play and penalty kill.  This postseason, the Cyclones have an abysmal 16.2% power play, while the Walleye are at an astonishing 36.8%.  Toledo also wins the penalty kill battle, at 92.8% versus Cincinnati’s 84.2%.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2023 season!

    Carrie Roberts covers the Adirondack Thunder for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with her on Twitter @FPHAdkThunder.

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