By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Listening to the South Carolina Stingrays coaching staff and players after Game 1 of the American Conference Final with Cincinnati on Saturday night, it was difficult to tell which team had won by three goals.
For the record, the Stingrays beat Cincinnati, 7-4, but the demeanor in the locker room was anything but triumphant.
It was the final period that was most upsetting for the Stingrays, who host the Cyclones in Game 2 tonight at 7 at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Stingrays took a 5-goal lead entering the fina1 20 minutes but watched the Cyclones rally for three goals and gain some much-needed confidence going into Monday’s game.
“Obviously we’re happy to get the win,” said Matt Scherer, who scored twice Saturday. “I thought we dropped the ball the last 20 minutes and that’ll be stinging for the next couple of days.
The most important thing is that we got the win, but we’ve got to learn from our mistakes in the third period. We know this series isn’t over yet.”
The Stingrays, who were coming off an emotional six-game series with Florida, took advantage of a sluggish start from the defending Kelly Cup champions and coasted to a 6-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
But despite outshooting the Cyclones, 29-13, and doubling their scoring chances, not everyone was pleased with the Stingrays’ performance through the first two periods, especially coach Jared Bednar.
“Our intensity level wasn’t where it needed to be,” said Bednar, “and it wasn’t where it was in the Florida series, and we’re in a bigger round. This is the conference final and we need to get our intensity level higher than it was in the previous series.”
Cincinnati coach Chuck Weber can’t understand why his team had a lackadaisical effort in the first two periods, adding that the Cyclones will have to match the Stingrays’ intensity level in Game 2 to have a chance.
“South Carolina jumped on us from the start and never stopped,” Weber said. “They were playing at a very high pace and we didn’t match it. We got outplayed from the opening faceoff.”
Weber wasn’t sure how much the Cyclones’ eight-day layoff after their sweep of Elmira in the North Division final affected their performance.
“We’ve been known to play some sloppy hockey after a long layoff, and we certainly were not sharp,” said Weber, who is hoping his Cyclones can build on Saturday’s third-period outburst.
“Hopefully we can take some momentum into Game 2,” Weber said.
South Carolina winger Spencer Carbery knows the Stingrays have yet to see the Cyclones’ best effort.
“The Cincinnati team we saw in the third period, the one that scored three goals, is the team that we’re going to see the rest of the series,” Carbery said.