CINCINNATI — One more win.
Nikita Kashirsky and Trent Campbell each had a goal and an assist as Jonathan Boutin stopped 28 shots to lead South Carolina past Cincinnati, 4-3, in Game 3 of the American Conference final Wednesday night at U.S. Bank Arena.
With the victory, the Stingrays have a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series and can clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup finals with a victory in Game 4 Friday night (7:30 p.m.) at U.S. Bank Arena.
The Stingrays are just one win away from earning a spot in the franchise’s third Kelly Cup finals. The Stingrays won Kelly Cup titles in 1997 and 2001.
No team in ECHL history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
The Stingrays appeared to be on their way to a blowout victory, scoring the game’s first four goals, but held off a late Cyclone rally to secure the win.
“Nothing comes easy in the playoffs,” said Stingrays head coach Jared Bednar. “The four teams that are left have a lot of character or they wouldn’t have gotten this far in the playoffs. We knew Cincinnati was going to come out hard tonight, and they did.
“Up four (goals) you might expect Cincinnati to just roll over, but that doesn’t happen in the playoffs. We didn’t expect this game to be easy. This is a huge win for us. Lose this game and its 2-1 and Cincinnati has the momentum back in the series. But it’s 3-0 and now we’re one win away from getting to our ultimate goal.”
Boutin won his fifth straight game and his third straight on the road in the playoffs.
“Jonathan was solid again,” Bednar said. “At the start of the playoffs, I told Jonathan and James (Reimer) that they’d start until they lost and then we’d go with the other guy. Right now we’re riding the hot hand with Jonathan. I don’t want to go too long before I get James out there, but at the same time I want to keep on winning.”
The Stingrays opened the scoring less than eight minutes into the game on Lacroix’s power play goal.
South Carolina then reeled off the three straight goals from Campbell, Kashirsky and Zach Tarkir to take a 4-0 lead with 12:53 left in the second period.
Campbell, who leads the Stingrays in scoring in the playoffs with 18 points, scored on a one-timer off a cross-ice pass from Patrick Wellar.
Kashirsky added his fourth goal of the playoffs when he scored off a pass from Michael Dubuc.
Tarkir, who leads all defensemen in the playoffs with five goals, added the final goal the period with his slap shot from the point on the power play.
The Cyclones finally got on the scoreboard and made things interesting with two goals to end the second period — the first coming from team captain Barret Ehgoetz and the second from Kyle Rank to cut the gap to 4-2 going into the final period.
“I was hoping we could keep them to just the one goal before the second intermission, but give Cincinnati credit they battled hard and got right back into the game,” Bednar said. “We were able regroup in the locker room and I thought came out and played a pretty good third period.”
The Cyclones got to within a goal, 4-3, on Ehgoetz’s second goal of the game on the Cyclones power play less than two minutes into the final period.
“After their last goal, I like the way we competed and protected the house,” Bednar said. “It was nice to see us dig in the way we did in the third period after they scored three unanswered goals and play some stingy defense.”