Goalie Rob Madore woke up Friday in Vermont, looking forward to spending Easter weekend with his girlfriend’s family in Albany, N.Y.
But 16 hours later, Madore was being mobbed by his new teammates after leading the Stingrays to a 4-3 quadruple-overtime victory over Gwinnett in Duluth, Ga., in Game 3 of a Kelly Cup playoff series.
“I guess I have my own planes, trains and automobiles story to tell everyone now,” said Madore.
Madore’s excellent adventure actually began Thursday when Washington goalie Michal Neuvirth was injured in a game against Florida. With No. 1 goalie Thomas Vokoun already injured, the Capitals called up a goalie from AHL affiliate Hershey. That meant Stingrays goalie Daren Machnesney, who had started the first two games in the series against Gwinnett, was heading to Hershey.
Meanwhile, Madore was on the road heading to Albany when he got a call from Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery.
“When we first started talking, I thought he was asking me about my plans for next season,” Madore said. “When I finally understood what he was talking about, coming in that night, I was like, ‘OK’ I’m ready.’ ”
Madore immediately drove three hours to Boston, and took a flight to Atlanta, where he arrived at about 4:30 p.m.
Encountering some rush-hour traffic, he got to the Duluth rink about an hour before the game. “I had just enough time to sign some paperwork and get in a stretch.”
He didn’t find out he was starting until just before pre-game warmups. “As a goalie you’ve got to be ready to play every game, no matter what. I’ve learned anything can happen.”
Anything did happen, as Madore would end up involved in the second longest game in ECHL history. The 124 minute, 19 second marathon was just 1:52 short of setting a record.
“I don’t think Rob signed up for seven periods of hockey,” said Stingrays captain Matt Scherer. “Under the circumstances, it was an unbelievable performance.”
The 24-year-old Pittsburgh native and former University of Vermont star made 54 saves in the Stingrays’ 4-3 victory.
Game 4 is today at 2 p.m. with the Stingrays holding a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five series with Gwinnett.
“It got a little ridiculous. I thought it was going to go 10 overtimes,” Madore said. “The guys played so hard in front of me. When you think about 54 saves, it sounds like I played a great game, but really, because of what the guys were doing in front of me, it wasn’t that hard of a game.”
When Stingrays defenseman Zach Tarkir finally ended the game four minutes into the fourth OT, Madore couldn’t believe it was over.
“It was an amazing day,” Madore said. “Everything that happened, everything I went through to get to Atlanta and the game, it was incredible.”
Madore is the most unlikely of heroes for the Stingrays. A month ago, he was finishing up his career at Vermont.
He was signed by the ECHL’s Chicago Express and was impressive in 12 starts, going 8-3-1 with a .926 save percentage.
“I saw him one night with Chicago and thought he played well,” Carbery said. “I felt like he gave us the best chance to win.”
Madore’s status is uncertain if Machesney eventually returns from Hershey.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Carbery said. “For now, we’re just all going to enjoy this win and get ready for Game 4. This series isn’t over.”