For some reason, the Fort Wayne Komets seem to think they can out-skate and outscore the Cincinnati Cyclones, who were the ECHL's top-scoring team during the regular season.
"Sure," the Cyclones seem to be saying, "try to keep up. Let's see who's faster."
But that's a sucker's bet because Komets can't win this series playing that style. The Komets can outplay Cincinnati, but the Cyclones are still opportunistic enough to win the game if Fort Wayne makes any mistakes. They are that good offensively.
That's kind of what happened Thursday night in Game 3 of the ECHL's Eastern Conference semifinals. The Komets let the Cyclones play their game to build a 2-0 lead before battling back to force overtime. Then there was a delay of game penalty that led to Cincinnati's game-winning goal in the second overtime. The Cyclones lead the series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Saturday.
Without Ben Meisner's outstanding play in the first two periods Thursday night, there would never have been any hope for a rally. The Komets dominated the last half of the game, but they still lost because of a lousy start and one mistake. They dominated everything in between, but it didn't matter.
"We shouldn't blame the refs because we blew that game ourselves,'' Komets captain Kaleigh Schrock said. "We put ourselves in that position and there are no excuses. How we rebound will show our true character and if we deserve to come back and win this series.''
The Komets need to find a different style that will work. Quite simply, if they don't start hitting, this series is over.
This Cincinnati team is much different than first-round opponent Reading. The Cyclones aren't as big as the Royals, and they don't crash the net, chirp after whistles or instigate much physical play. They just skate by you.
There are two ways to slow down a team like that: Keep the puck in their end or knock them down. You can't beat them at their own game because they are better at it.
"They are a transition team and we let them skate in the first two periods and we came back with our game in the third,'' defenseman Simon Danis-Pepin said. "I think our will to win battles is the biggest difference. We created so many more chances. We have to remember the last period of the game and the overtime and that's how we have to play in this series.''
But the Komets knew that going into the series and in three games have only shown flashes of that strategy. They did it just enough to win Game 1 in the final seconds, almost skipped doing it entirely to lose big in Game 2 and kicked it in during the third period of Game 3 to outshoot the Cyclones 20-3 and rally.
They know how to beat the Cyclones, but are they willing to do it? Are they disciplined and aggressive enough to go after the puck and the man in Cincinnati's zone on every shift and from the start of the game?
If they can trap the Cyclones in their own zone, that's when the Komets' speed can be a factor.
The Komets are fast but not fast enough to beat the Cyclones in a speed-skating contest. The only thing quick about that type of game for the Komets is how fast this series will be over if they let it continue.
CYCLONES 3, KOMETS 2 (2ot)
ECHL Conference Semifinals
(Cyclones lead series 2-1)
Penalties: C-Taylor Aronson (tripping) 7:19.
Scoring: 1. C-Josh Shalla (Chris Reed, Byron Froese) 13:38; 2. C-Zach Budish (Froese, Aronson) 14:10.
Penalties: C-Jordon Southorn (hooking) 6:25; C-Mike Dalhuisen (fighting) 13:42; FW-Kaleigh Schrock (fighting) 13:42.
Scoring: 3. FW-Shawn Szydlowski (Southorn, Brandon Marino) 3:50; 4. FW-Mike Embach (Matthew Maione) 7:52.
Penalties: C-Shalla (tripping) 2:03; C-Budish (roughing) 20:00; FW-Sothorn (roughing) 20:00.
Scoring: 5. C-Shalla (Froese) 11:25.
Penalties: FW-Bench (delay of game) 10:55.
Shots on goal: C/8-15-3-7-3--36; FW/10-7-20-8-6--51. Goaltenders: C/Rob Madore; FW/Ben Meisner. Power-play opportunities: C/1 of 2; FW/1 of 2. Officials: Referee-Frederic Leblanc; Linesmen: Jesse Pletsch, Zach Thornton. Attendance: 4,104.