By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – South Carolina Stingrays winger Trent Campbell remembers U.S. Bank Arena all too well from last year’s American Conference finals with Cincinnati.
And despite the Stingrays owning a 2-0 lead in their current American Conference final series with the Cyclones, Campbell knows the series is far from being over. Campbell said he expects to see a vastly different Cincinnati team Wednesday in Game 3 at U.S. Bank Arena beginning at 7:30. Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is set for Friday night, while Game 5, if necessary, would be Saturday night.
The Stingrays lost both games at U.S. Bank Arena a year ago as the Cyclones eliminated the Stingrays in five games.
“I remember that they had a pretty big home-ice advantage last year,” Campbell said. “They pack the place, the fans are pretty rowdy and they seem to really feed off the energy in the building. I expect it to be a very similar atmosphere this time. We’re halfway to our goal of getting to the (Kelly Cup) finals, but I know we’ve got our work cut out for us with these next three games.”
While the ice surface at U.S. Bank Arena isn’t any bigger than the one at the North Charleston Coliseum, the dimensions of the rink are different. There’s more room behind the nets and along the half-walls, which the Cyclones used to great effect in last year’s series.
“Last year, they had the kind of team that could take advantage of that extra space in their offensive zone,” said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. “We’ll see how we match up with them this weekend. I expect it to be a very difficult building to play in and get a win.”
Unlike last year when South Carolina went 0-8 on the road in the playoffs, the Stingrays have proven they can win away from the North Charleston Coliseum. The Stingrays are 3-3 on the road this postseason with two wins at Germain Arena over Florida, which won an ECHL-best 28 games at home during the regular season.
“I think they’ll come out at us hard, and we’ve got to be ready,” Bednar said. “We really haven’t done a thing yet except hold serve on our home ice. We’ve won on the road in Charlotte and Florida, so we’re confident we can go into any rink and come out with a win.”
Cincinnati coach Chuck Weber said there’s no time for the Cyclones to feel sorry for themselves at this point in the series. If history is any indication, the Cyclones are capable of rebounding, but that needs to start Wednesday in Game 3.
“We’ve got to be ready to play (Wednesday),” Weber said. “We were down 0-2 at home after two games to Wheeling, and then we came back to win three straight against Wheeling on the road. Our guys have to use that as an example, but if we’re not prepared to come in and outwork South Carolina, then we’ll be in trouble in Game 3.”
Stingrays defenseman Sasha Pokulok and his wife had a baby girl late Monday night.
Pokulok will miss Wednesday’s game, but is expected to rejoin the team for Game 4 on Friday night.