By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Good or bad, South Carolina Stingrays captain Cail MacLean never dwells on the last game.
After more than a decade of playing professional hockey, MacLean, 31, has learned that dwelling on the last game can be a distraction for the next game.
While South Carolina’s 5-4 overtime loss to Cincinnati in Game 2 of the American Conference finals was especially frustrating because the Stingrays squandered a three-goal lead, MacLean said he and his teammates must put the game out of their minds.
The Stingrays will take on the Cyclones in Game 3 of the best-of-seven Kelly Cup series Wednesday beginning at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Cyclones lead the series, 2-0.
“You don’t have any time to worry about the past in the playoffs,” MacLean said. “We have to realize that it takes four games to win a series at this point. The bottom line is that if we don’t recover from Game 2, we’re in trouble. We’ve got to come out and play hard on Wednesday and take it one game at a time.
“Game 2 was a tough loss, but any loss in the playoffs is tough no matter if it’s a blowout or a loss in overtime. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and be ready to play in Game 3.”
Stingrays rookie winger Andrew Gordon couldn’t agree more.
“The sun did come up Sunday morning,” said Gordon, whose power-play goal put the Stingrays up 4-3 late in the third period in Game 2. “It’s not the end of the world. In the playoffs, all the games count, so a loss is a loss, no matter what the score was or how you lost it.
“It is what it is, and we’re down 2-0 in the series. I think everyone in this locker room understands that. There’s no point in dwelling on it. If you dwell on a loss, it will end up beating you twice, so we’ve got to move on and look forward to playing Game 3.”
After two strong periods Saturday night, the Stingrays led Cincinnati 3-0 going into the final 20 minutes of Game 2. During the regular season, the Stingrays were 26-2-0 when leading after two periods of play.
“I loved the way we played for the first two periods Saturday night,” said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. “Really, we played well for 40 minutes in each of the first two games of the series. I’m convinced from what I saw up in Cincinnati that we can beat them if we play a full 60 minutes of hockey.
“The problem for us was that we didn’t play a complete game in either Game 1 or Game 2. We played well for about 45 minutes in Game 1 and about 50 minutes in Game 2, and you can’t take five minutes off or a period off against a team as talented as Cincinnati. There’s a reason they won the Brabham Cup this season.”
Bednar said mental mistakes, some tough calls from the officials and the Cyclones’ potent offense conspired to contribute to the Stingrays’ meltdown.
“I give Cincinnati a lot of credit — they’re the best offensive team we’ve faced, but that’s no excuse for blowing a three-goal lead,” Bednar said. “We made some bad decisions inside our defensive zone. We took four straight penalties and we gave up a couple of odd-man rushes with a three-goal lead.
“We made some dumb mistakes that ended up in the back of our net. We can’t have mental breakdowns against a team like Cincinnati because they know how to convert on your mistakes.”
Bednar said that winger Marty Guerin should be available in Game 3 on Wednesday night. Guerin, who is second on the team with nine goals in the playoffs, has missed the last three games with an undisclosed injury. Guerin practiced Monday morning.
“I felt good out there, and unless something happens between now and Wednesday, I expect to be in the lineup on Wednesday,” Guerin said.