By John Devlin
Special to The State
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Columbia Inferno returns home to the Carolina Coliseum on Friday with no margin for error.
Troy Mann’s team trails its best-of-five ECHL South Division championship series against South Carolina 2-0.
“We opened the playoffs with four straight wins, so it’s not out of the question that we can win three games in a row and take the series,” Mann said. “But we can’t be looking that far ahead. We have to focus on playing a solid 60-minute game, 20 minutes at a time.”
Mann understood Sunday’s Game 1 against the Stingrays would be a challenge, considering the series opener came 48 hours after an emotional 4-1 win at top-seeded Texas that wrapped up the divisional semifinal series.
“We didn’t get back to town until 3 p.m. on Saturday, so we didn’t really have an off day to get ready for South Carolina,” Mann said. “I expected the guys to be tired and emotionally drained, and they were.”
The Inferno played well before falling 2-1. The 5-2 loss on Tuesday, however, did not sit well with Mann.
“We came out flat and stopped playing the style of hockey that has been so successful for us in the playoffs,” he said. “We didn’t play the system, and we weren’t physical.”
Columbia’s most consistent forward line during the playoffs had been center Mac Faulkner and wings Daniel Sparre and Steve McJannet. The three have combined for 11 goals, 28 points and a plus-minus rating of plus-15.
Goalie Todd Ford, a fourth-year pro, ranks fifth in the ECHL playoffs with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.