By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The special teams were anything but special for the South Carolina Stingrays.
Jason Deitsch scored two power-play goals and Cincinnati goalie Cedrick Desjardins stopped 35 shots to lead the Cyclones past the Stingrays, 3-1, Friday night in Game 4 of the American Conference finals before a crowd of 4,982 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Cyclones lead the best-of-seven ECHL Kelly Cup series, 3-1, and can eliminate the Stingrays in Game 5 on Saturday at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Special teams were the difference in the game, as the Stingrays, who lost at home for the first time in the playoffs in 11 games, gave up three power-play goals in the first period and managed just one goal with the man advantage in six chances.
“When you look at it, the difference in this game was special teams,” said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. “They had too many power-play goals — I know three in the first period — to not enough for us. We’re trying to find a way to get our power play going and get on the board. We’ve certainly struggled with it in this series.
“There were a lot of shots and scrambles in front of the net for both teams tonight on the power play, and they were able to get to the loose pucks and we didn’t. You can’t give a team like Cincinnati that many chances on the power play and expect to beat them.”
The Stingrays were uncharacteristically undisciplined against the Cyclones, getting whistled for 10 penalties during the game.
“To say that we were a little undisciplined tonight is an understatement,” said Stingrays captain Cail MacLean. “We’re very disappointed with our discipline. I think we were a little bit over-excited tonight. We were pretty fired up before the game and maybe we let our emotions get the better of us. We need to control our emotions during the playoffs.”
Despite spending most of the game in the penalty box, the Cyclones gave the Stingrays a chance to get back into the game with an extended 5-on-3 power play.
After the Cyclones were called for too many men on the ice and winger Mathieu Aubin was given a minor penalty for a delay of game for knocking the net off the moorings, the Stingrays had a two-minute, two-man advantage.
The Stingrays generated seven shots and at least three quality scoring chances during the 5-on-3 power play, but were unable to get the puck past Desjardins.
“The power play has been the story of the series for us,” said Stingrays winger Andrew Gordon. “We’ve had chances to score on the power play, but we haven’t converted, and tonight was no different. Nothing seemed to work for us. It was one of those days. When you have seven shots on net and you don’t score, that kind of wears on you mentally. There really wasn’t much more we could do out there. We got some shots on net, had some rebounds, but just couldn’t get the puck past (Dejardins). Got to give him credit.”
After getting pulled in Game 2 at U.S. Bank Arena in the second period for giving up three goals, Desjardins rebounded with his best game of the series.
“Cedrick was in the zone,” said Cincinnati coach Chuck Weber. “He saw pucks all night long. He knew where the shots were going before they got there. I thought he did a fantastic job from the standpoint of reading the play and getting big in the net for us. He did a great job of controlling his rebounds.”
The Cyclones grabbed a 1-0 lead on Ryan Maki‘s first goal of the playoffs. After a hard wrist shot by ECHL MVP David Desharnais, Maki was left all alone in front of the net and lifted a shot over a sprawled out Stingrays goalie Davis Parley for the score.
Deitsch pushed the Cyclones’ advantage to 3-0 with two power-play goals, both coming off rebounds from shots by defenseman Sean Perkins in the final three minutes of the first period.
The Stingrays finally figured out Desjardins midway through the third period when Gordon walked off the half-boards and wristed a shot over the shoulder of the Cyclones netminder for the score with 7:49 left in regulation.
The Stingrays nearly got another goal less than a minute later when Chris Chaput made a beautiful cross-ice pass to MacLean, only to have Desjardins slide across the crease and make a pad save to end the threat.