The Jackets may have fallen short again, but there is in fact still playoff hockey going on in the state of Ohio. The Dayton Bombers (a CBJ affiliate) and Cincinnati Cyclones are playing in the North Division Finals in the ECHL. Cincinnati took the first two games in Dayton, and last night the best-of-seven series shifted back to
Riverfront Coliseum The Crown Firstar Center US Bank Arena.
This was my first time watching the Cyclones since they were in the IHL and playing at Cincinnati Gardens. This latest iteration of the team is in their inaugural ECHL season, is an affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, and have been in the basement of the league in terms of attendance. Rumor has it they will be skating elsewhere next season, but their playoff run is keeping hockey alive at US Bank Arena for the time being.
Speaking of which, I don’t think I’d been there since around 1989 or ’90. It has been renovated since then (I miss the old red, yellow, and blue seats), but still has the sour odor of the 1970s all over it…probably the absolute nadir of North American arena design. It seems even more anachronistic now that it’s next to the ’90s era Great American Ball Park rather than the equally generic ’70s Riverfront Stadium. Unfortunately, with Hamilton County taxpayers already on the hook for GABP and Paul Brown Stadium, and neither the NBA nor NHL beating down Cincinnati’s door, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing a Nationwide Arena-type modern arena in the 513 any time soon.
But none of that mattered in terms of last night’s game…the seats were down low, the action was fast and rough, the crowd was small but into the game, and the Cyclones still come onto the ice to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC, just as they did when I was a STH back at the Gardens in 1990. A fairly sizeable contingent of Bombers fans had made the trip down I-75 (which made it safer for yours truly, since I’d turned my back on my hometown in favor of loyalty to the Jackets org). A fair number of CBJ jerseys and other apparel in the crowd, probably the most well-represented NHL team (which is a good sign; a few years ago at CMD games, Detroit and Anaheim still outnumbered Columbus in the crowd). I also have to single out the guy in the corner wearing an original Cyclones jersey with Melnyk #16 on the back — Doug Melnyk was my favorite of the original ‘Clones.
In the first period, the ice seemed tilted towards the Dayton net, with the ‘Clones outshooting the bombers by a wide margin. But Dayton managed to tie it before the end of the period.
The Bombers must have gotten quite a barracking between periods, because they came out strong in the second and really took the play to Cincinnati. That said, though, the score went back-and-forth, with both teams adding two goals.
The third was tight-checking playoff hockey, without a lot of shots on net by either team. It looked bound for OT, until Jeff Hristovski potted the game winner for Dayton late in the period.
The teams meet again today in Cincinnati. This has been a tight series (the first two games were 5-4 and 1-0), so it should be a good one.
I got some pretty decent shots with the cellphone last night, although the scratches and streaks in the glass get in the way of some of them. Enjoy the pictures.