If the South Carolina Stingrays never face Wheeling rookie goalie Mike Condon again - it would be too soon.
Condon continued his dominance over the Stingrays, making 33 saves, and Max MacKay scored two goals and added an assist to lead Wheeling past South Carolina, 4-2, in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Friday night before a crowd of 2,175 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling, W.Va.
With the victory, the Nailers swept the Stingrays, 4-0, and advance to the conference semifinals against the winner of the Kalamazoo-Greenville series. That series is tied 2-2.
Condon, a Montreal Canadians prospect, gave up just four goals in four games to the Stingrays and recorded two shutouts. In four games against the Stingrays, Condon stopped 130 of the 134 shots he faced for a .970 save percentage.
Despite giving up two goals in Game 4, Condon stopped the first 26 shots he faced before giving up a goal to Jordan Owens five minutes into the final period.
"Mike Condon was exceptional, he played as well as any goalie I've ever seen in my playing and coaching career during a playoff series," said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. "No question, he was the difference in this series. But part of that is on us. We didn't get enough traffic in front of him and we didn't bear down and drive to the net enough. Condon was great, but we didn't make him work as hard as we could have."
It was the second straight season the Stingrays were swept out of the playoffs. A year ago, the Stingrays were swept in four straight games out of the first round by Gwinnett. The Stingrays have not won a playoff game since April 20, 2102, when they beat Kalamazoo, 4-1, in Game 4 of their conference semifinal series.
"I'm as disappointed as I've ever been as a player or a coach," said Carbery, who was named the ECHL Coach of the Year earlier this month. "When the bright lights came on, we didn't perform like we were capable of. Even with all the injuries and call-ups, I still thought we had the makings of a Kelly Cup championship team, and we didn't come close to reaching that potential.
"No one performed well from top to bottom and that includes me. I didn't coach as well as I should have. It's just very, very disappointing to have the playoffs end after just four games."
After a physical first period that saw the two teams combine for 22 penalty minutes, the Nailers held a 1-0 lead off a goal from rookie Sahir Gill at 2:46 slipping a shot between the legs of Stingrays goaltender Allen York from between the faceoff circles.
MacKay gave the Nailers a two-goal advantage late in the middle period when a bouncing pass rolled off the back of York at 16:20.
In the final period, MacKay added his second goal of the series at 2:37 for a 3-0 lead before the Stingrays snapped the shutout streak of Condon at 5:30 off the stick of Jordan Owens. Forward Igor Gongalsky and defenseman Brendan Ellis added assists.
Jack Downing made things interesting when his blast from center ice skipped past the glove of Condon with less than a minute to play.
But the Nailers sealed the victory and the series with an empty-net goal with six seconds left in regulation from forward Denver Manderson.
South Carolina 0 0 2 - 2
Wheeling 1 1 2 - 4
First Period: W, Gill 1 (Minella, MacKay), 2:46. Penalties: Bakker W (cross-checking), 6:58; Ellis SC (fighting - major), 8:37; Cianfrini W (fighting - major), 8:37; Hagel SC (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:11; Spinell SC (roughing), 10:11; Johnson W (roughing), 10:11; McGrath W (double - roughing), 10:11.
Second Period: 2. W, MacKay 1 (Gill, Merth), 16:20. Penalties: Ellis SC (high-sticking), 1:56.
Third Period: 3. W, MacKay 2 2:37. 4. SC, Owens 1 (Gongalsky, Ellis), 5:30. 5. SC, Downing 2 (King, Owens), 19:01. 6. W, Manderson 2 (Stevenson, Gill), 19:54.
Penalties: Santana SC (interference on the goalkeeper), 6:32; Manderson W (delay of game), 6:48; Gongalsky SC (interference), 7:54. Gongalsky SC (interference), 7:54; Campbell SC (interference on the goalkeeper), 15:06; Bakker W (cross-checking), 15:06; Gongalsky SC (tripping), 15:50; Ellis SC (slashing ), 17:47; Minella W (slashing ), 17:47.
Shots on Goal: Wheeling 5-9-15-29. South Carolina 8-15-12-35. Power Play: Wheeling 0 of 5; South Carolina: 0 of 2. Penalties: Wheeling 8-19; South Carolina 10-23. Goalies: Wheeling - Mike Condon (4-0) 35 shots, 33 saves. South Carolina - Allen York (0-3) 28 shots, 25 saves. A-2,715.
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