By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Down a goal with less than three minutes left in regulation, South Carolina captain Cail MacLean knew the Stingrays were not about to panic.
Trailing Cincinnati, 4-3, late in the third period Wednesday night, MacLean said there was a sense of urgency, but also a sense of calm on the Stingrays bench.
“Everyone was very positive, very encouraging on the bench,” MacLean said. “I didn’t get the sense that anyone was panicking. I think everyone knew what needed to be done and was just determined to get it done.”
Twenty-three seconds after Jean-Michel Daoust had given the Cyclones a 4-3 lead, Chris Chaput tied the game after a mad scramble in front of the Cincinnati crease to send the game into overtime. The Stingrays would eventually win the game, 5-4, on Trent Campbell‘s goal in overtime.
“Chris’ goal was huge for us,” MacLean said. “If Cincinnati wins that game, then they’re up 3-0 in the series and it’s probably over. To get that win gives us some momentum going into Game 4.”
The Stingrays can even the best-of-seven Kelly Cup American Conference series with a win on Friday in Game 4. The game is set to start at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum. Parking is free on Friday.
In Game 3, the Stingrays rallied twice during the third period, from 3-2 and 4-3 deficits.
“I think that shows you what kind of character we’ve got on this team,” MacLean said. “I thought the way we answered them in the third period really showed what we’re made of, and you can’t win a championship without having character in your locker room.”
While head coach Jared Bednar was pleased with the win in Game 3, he doesn’t think the Stingrays have been as consistent as they’ve needed to be against the Cyclones.
“We haven’t been nearly as consistent as we’ve been in other series,” Bednar said. “Against a team as good as Cincinnati, you have to be consistent from shift-to-shift, period-to-period and game-to-game and I don’t think we’ve done that. As explosive as Cincinnati is and as good as they are in transition, we’ve got to be more consistent with our decisions.”
Slowing down ECHL MVP David Desharnais will also be a key for the Stingrays. He has three goals and four assists in three games in the series and leads all Kelly Cup playoff scorers with 21 points on seven goals and 14 assists.
“No question that Desharnais has been the story of this series,” Bednar said. “He was the MVP during the regular season and he’s showing everyone why during the playoffs. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s very strong on his skates and almost impossible to knock off the puck. He’s very good in the clutch. He has scored a lot of big goals in this series already, and that’s what you expect from a league MVP.”
Bednar said Desharnais reminds him of former Stingrays star Joey Tenute, who was the ECHL rookie of the year in the 2004-05 season.
“I think they are very similar players,” Bednar said. “They were both good skaters and could finish around the net.”
For the first time in the playoffs, Bednar pulled a goalie during a game Wednesday. After giving up his third goal of the game early in the third period, Bednar pulled rookie Josh Johnson and replaced him with veteran Davis Parley, who had given up a total of 11 goals in the first two games of the series.
“I thought we needed a spark,” Bednar said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t like the goals that Josh had given up, but I felt like we needed something to get us going. A lot of times that means switching goalies.”
Bednar said he’s not sure who will start in net on Friday in Game 4. “I’m going back and forth; I’ll talk with both of them (Friday) and then make a decision.”
The issue of which goalie will start for the Cyclones could be just as cloudy. Maxime Daigneault, who played for the Stingrays from 20004-06, replaced Cedrick Desjardins in the second period of Game 2 in Cincinnati. Daigneault, who is 5-2-0 during the postseason, gave up five goals in Game 3.
“Max and Desjardins are both quality goaltenders, so it doesn’t matter who we face, we know they’re going to be good,” Bednar said.