By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – There’s no such thing as a bad shot in overtime. Just ask South Carolina Stingrays winger Trent Campbell.
Campbell scored the game-winner 2:03 into overtime to lead South Carolina past Cincinnati, 5-4, Wednesday night in Game 3 of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs American Conference finals before a crowd of 3,201 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Cyclones lead the best-of-seven hockey series, 2-1, with Game 4 set for Friday at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
South Carolina, which is 10-0 at home during the postseason, dominated most of the action outshooting the Cyclones, 44-24, during the game.
But it took Campbell’s deflection to get the Stingrays back into the series after dropping the first two games at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
“I didn’t really shoot it, I just tipped it, but it went in, and that’s all that really matters,” said Campbell, who notched his second game-winning overtime goal of the playoffs. “Steve threw it on net and my stick was in the right place and it went between his legs and we got a lucky bounce.”
Much like Game 2 in Cincinnati, the Stingrays controlled the game at even strength with the Cyclones, keeping their scoring chances to a minimum.
“I thought for the most part we did OK defensively,” said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. “They are a lethal team when they cycle the puck down low and I thought we did a good job of clogging up those chances. The shots on goal can be kind of a deceiving statistic. Twenty-four shots is certainly a good number, but we still allowed them too many quality scoring chances for my liking.”
Offensively, the Stingrays had plenty of puck possession and had double-digit shots in each of the three periods against Daigneault, who played for the Stingrays from 2004-06.
“Our motto tonight was get pucks and traffic on net,” Bednar said. “Five-on-five, I thought we did a good job of getting pucks on net for most of the game. The only time we really didn’t do a good job of getting the puck to the net was on our power play and I think that’s why we didn’t have a power-play goal tonight.”
It was a gritty effort from the Stingrays, especially in the third period when they fought back from 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to tie the game.
“We knew we had to get this game. We couldn’t go down to them 3-0 in the series,” said Stephen Werner, who had a goal and an assist. “We had a couple of huge goals in the third period where we answered them right after they scored. Cincinnati is a team that scores in bunches, so it was really, really important for us to answer every time they scored.”
The Stingrays grabbed a 1-0 lead on Pierre-Luc O’Brien‘s second goal of the playoffs. Trent Campbell picked up a loose puck in the Stingrays’ offensive zone and took a hard wrist shot that Daigneault failed to control. O’Brien drove the net and knocked it past Daigneault from just outside the crease for the score 2:14 into the first period.
The Cyclones tied the game at 1 on Bryan Schmidt‘s power play goal three minutes later. South Carolina pushed its advantage to 2-1 on Werner’s even-strength goal early in the second period. After a turnover in neutral ice, Werner came down on the right side and wristed a shot from an awkward angle just before on the goal line on the right half-boards. The puck hit Daigneault in the pads, but somehow skipped up and trickled past him for the score with 15:18 left in the second period.
The Cyclones tied the game at 2 on Olivier Latendresse‘s power-play goal midway through the second period.
The Cyclones took a 3-2 lead on Thomas Beauregard‘s even strength goal just 2:37 into the third period. Beauregard’s goal chased Johnson from the South Carolina net as veteran Davis Parley, who gave up 11 goals in the first two games of the series, replaced the Stingrays’ rookie goalie.
The Stingrays answered almost immediately as Andrew Gordon one-timed a pass from Werner past Daigneault just 50 seconds later to tie the game at 3.
Cincinnati took a 4-3 lead on Jean-Michel Daoust‘s wrist shot with 2:42 left in regulation.
But again, the Stingrays answered as Chris Chaput scored just 23 seconds later to tie the game at 4 with 2:19 left in regulation and send the game into overtime.