Central Division Semifinal Game #3
Kalamazoo (1-1-0-0) at Cincinnati (1-1-0-0)
Listen: 1660 The Fan
Last Time Out:
A 31-save shutout from Jake Hildebrand was the story on Saturday night as the K-Wings topped the Cyclones 2-0 to even the best-of-seven series at one game each. After a back and forth first period that saw neither team find the back of the net, it was the K-Wing power play that broke the ice in the second. Just over three minutes into the middle frame Reid Gardiner sent a shot from the top of the circle past Michael Houser to put the visitors up 1-0. It marked the second time in as many games that the K-Wings had scored first, and the second time that Kalamazoo had scored on the man-advantage. Kalamazoo extended the one-goal lead midway through the third period. Chris Collins notched his second goal of the post-season, adding the insurance marker for the K-Wings with 9:24 left in the third period. Gardiner would add an assist on the goal, giving him two points on the night. Hildebrand would stand tall in the third stopping all 11 shots he faced, and all 31 in the game as Kalamazoo left Cincinnati with the series all tied at one game each.
Clean Slates in The Playoffs:
Saturday's shutout marked the first time since the 2011 playoffs that a K-Wing had accomplished the feat. The previous playoff shutout came on May 8, 2011 when Ryan Nie shutout the Wheeling Nailers as Kalamazoo won Game 5 of their series 4-0. It was also only the second time since the K-Wings joined the ECHL. For Hildebrand it was his first professional playoff shutout, and the sixth of his career. Saturday also marked the first time since February of 2018 that Cincinnati had been shutout overall, and the first time since December of 2016 that the Cyclones had been shutout at home.
Power Play Clicking Again:
After finishing the season only scoring two power play goals in the last eight games of the regular season the K-Wings kicked off the post season by scoring three power play goals in the first two games. Kalamazoo has converted on three of 11 chances on the man-advantage (27.3%), placing them fifth among the 16 teams vying for the Kelly Cup. In comparison the K-Wings finished the regular season ranked fourth on the power play (20.3%). Cincinnati finished the regular season with the seventh ranked unit (18.9%), and is converting on 20% of chances (2-for-10) through the first two games of the series.
Kalamazoo returns to Wings Event Center for the next three games after splitting the first two games on the road. During the regular season the K-Wings won 20 of their 36 home games, posting a record of 20-13-1-2. When Kalamazoo made their last visit to the playoffs in 2017 the team went 3-0 in games played at Wings Event Center, topping Toledo in all three tries. Since joining the ECHL the K-Wings have posted a record of 19-11 on home ice during the post season.
Gardiner Racking Up the Points:
After a season that saw forward Reid Gardiner average 1.47 points per game after recording 53 points (26g, 27a) in 36 games for the K-Wings, the Humboldt, SK native has started the post season on a similar streak by netting a trio of points in the first two games. Gardiner, who had 15 multipoint games for the K-Wings this season, recorded his first multipoint playoff game on Saturday night scoring the game-winning goal, and adding an assist on the second goal of the night.
Kalamazoo and Cincinnati return to the ice at Wings Event Center on Friday night for Game 4 of the series with puck drop set for 7:30pm. Game 5 will take place the next night on Saturday with puck drop slated for 7:00pm. If needed, Game 6 and Game 7 will be in Cincinnati next Tuesday and Wednesday.