By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
South Carolina Stingrays head coach Jared Bednar said he’s had enough of the roller coaster. The Stingrays’ South Division final series with the Florida Everblades has been a back-and-forth marathon and everything that Bednar expected it would be and then some.
The Stingrays, who lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, can eliminate the Brabham Cup winners with a victory on Tuesday in Game 6 at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.
“The series has been so draining, both physically and emotionally, for everyone involved,” Bednar said Monday morning after the team’s nine-hour bus ride to Florida. “There were a lot of people that wanted to see this series, and I think the series has lived up to its billing. It certainly hasn’t been dull, that’s for sure.
“It’s hard not to go from one extreme to another during a series like this. During the regular season, you try to keep things on an even keel, keep things pretty consistent, but in the playoffs there are going to be lots of ups and downs. No question, it has been a roller-coaster series and hopefully, we can get off the roller coaster and win one more time.”
The series certainly hasn’t lacked for theatrics. Two games already have gone into overtime and South Caro-lina’s dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 victory Sunday in Game 5 saw the Stingrays rally from a three-goal deficit and win on Nikita Kashirsky‘s power-play goal with 35 seconds left in regulation.
“It’s been a great series and it isn’t over yet,” said Stingrays captain Brad Farynuk. “It’s everything a playoff series should be between two evenly matched teams. Sometimes as a player you kind of take things for granted, but this is the time of year and the type of series as a player you want to be a part of.”
As emotional as Sunday’s win was, several Stingrays players know that there’s still plenty of hockey to be played.
“It’s only one win, one game,” said Michael Dubuc, who scored the Stingrays second goal. “We’ve got to win one more game. I know the series isn’t over.”
Florida coach Malcolm Cameron agreed.
“You have to beat us four times,” Cameron told the Naples Daily News on Monday. “We battled 71 games this regular season to win home ice advantage throughout the playoffs, and this is the reason why.”
The Everblades players and coaching staff were despondent after Sunday’s Game 5 meltdown. Cameron would not comment publicly on the game and made his players off limits to the media.
Bednar knows better than to think the Everblades are a beaten team. He expects Game 6 to be the Stingrays’ toughest game yet in the series.
“I know we’re going to get Florida’s best shot in Game 6,” Bednar said. “They were down after the loss on Sunday, but that’s over now. They’ve moved on. I know they’re going to come out ready to play and we’re going to have to match their intensity. The hardest game in any series is an elimination game.
“Florida is playing for their season. They don’t want to go home, so anyone who thinks this is going to be easy is dead wrong. I know it’s going to be a battle.”
Travis Morin, who has been out since Game 1 with an injured wrist, could be back in the lineup Tuesday. Morin, a first-team All-ECHL selection, has 10 points on three goals and seven assists, in seven games in the playoffs.
“We really haven’t made any final decisions about the lineup,” Bednar said. “There could be some changes. Obviously, if Travis is ready to go, he’ll be in the lineup. I’m a little more optimistic about getting Travis back for this game than I was about him playing over the weekend.
“He hasn’t played in a week, so I know he’s ready to go and as soon as the doctors clear him to play, he’ll be on the ice.”