South Carolina's best game of the series still wasn't good enough to beat the Wheeling Nailers.
Wheeling goalie Mike Condon made 38 saves and Christiaan Minella scored the game's only goal to lead the Nailers past the Stingrays, 1-0, in Game 3 of their best-of-seven Kelly Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Wednesday night at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, W.Va.
With the victory, the Nailers grabbed a 3-0 lead and can wrap up the best-of-seven series with a win in Game 4 Friday night at WesBanco Arena.
The story of Game 3, like it has been throughout the series so far, was the play of Condon, who has allowed just two goals in three games against the Stingrays. The rookie from Princeton University stopped all 38 shots he faced for his second shutout of the series.
"Right now, Mike Condon is beating us," said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. "He's the difference in the series. We created some really good scoring chances tonight and we couldn't get one past him. He's playing well and we just can't seem to get one past him."
From the drop of the puck, the Stingrays dictated the pace of the game and pressured the Nailers all over the ice. The Stingrays outshot the Nailers, 38-26, and more than doubled their scoring chances.
It still wasn't enough against Condon.
"It's a little discouraging and really disappointing because we did a lot of good things," Carbery said.
"We played a really good game tonight, but couldn't get the result we wanted. It was a big game for us and the guys left everything out there and we still came up short."
Stingrays goalie Allen York played his best game of the series, making three spectacular saves when the Nailers did get scoring chances.
"Allen played really well for us," Carbery said. "He had a couple of huge saves for us when there was a breakdown. We just couldn't give him any offensive support tonight."
The game's only goal came with nine seconds left in the second period after a turnover and a scramble in front of the net. York made the initial save on a Dustin Stevenson shot, but Minella was there for the rebound and the score.
"You hate to give up a goal that late in the period," Carbery said.
The Stingrays face elimination in Game 4 Friday night.
"Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not going to give up and neither will this team," Carbery said. "Our mission is the same as it was for Game 3, go out and win one hockey game."
South Carolina 0 0 0 - 0
Wheeling 0 1 0 - 1
First Period: No Scoring. Penalties: King SC (fighting - major), 5:33; McGrath W (fighting - major), 5:33; Hagel SC (slashing), 7:27.
Second Period: 1. W, Minella 2 (Stevenson, MacKay), 19:51. Penalties: Cianfrini W (tripping), 2:39; Downing, SC (slashing), 12:48; Stevenson, W (slashing), 17:19.
Third Period: No goals. Penalties: King, SC (closing hand on puck), 2:58; MacKay W, (bench - too many men), 11:38.
Shots on Goal: Wheeling 8-13-5-26. South Carolina 12-14-12-38. Power Play: Wheeling 0 of 3; South Carolina: 0 of 3. Penalties: Wheeling 4-11; South Carolina 4-11. Goalies: Wheeling - Mike Condon (3-0) 38 shots, 38 saves. South Carolina - Allen York (0-2) 26 shots, 25 saves. A-1,677.