CINCINNATI -- There was no way Stingrays goalie Todd Ford was going to have two bad games in a row.
Matt Scherer had a goal and an assist, and Ford stopped 25 of 26 shots to lead South Carolina past Cincinnati, 3-1, Wednesday night in Game 2 of the American Conference quarterfinals before a crowd of 1,353 at U.S. Bank Arena.
With the victory, the Stingrays evened the best-of-5 series at 1-1 with the final three games at the North Charleston Coliseum this weekend, starting with Game 3 on Friday at 7 p.m.
Ford didn't look much like an ECHL All-Star goalie Tuesday in Game 1, giving up six goals in a loss to the Cyclones. It was Ford's first start for the Rays since spending three weeks with the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League.
"It seems like that every time Todd has come back from the American League, he hasn't looked comfortable in net that first game back," said Stingrays coach Cail MacLean. "He didn't have his best game on Tuesday night, but I don't think he got much help from the rest of the team. Sometimes it's hard to adjust to the tempo and speed of a game down here after you've been up in the American League for as long as Todd was."
Game 2 was a different story for Ford and the Stingrays.
"Todd's a competitor and I knew he'd come out with a better effort," MacLean said. "Todd made a couple of big saves for us early on, and I thought he settled into the game very nicely from that point on."
While it wasn't a perfect game, MacLean was much happier with the Stingrays effort in Game 2.
"We got outworked in Game 1," MacLean said. "I thought our intensity on pucks was much better tonight and we were throwing our bodies around a lot better."
It took the Stingrays less than a minute to get on the scoreboard in Game 2. Rob Ricci, who had 25 goals during the regular season, scored just 33 seconds into the game off a pass from Scherer.
"I think we set the tone on the first shift," MacLean said. "You could tell this was a different team."
Less than five minutes later, Scherer gave the Stingrays a 2-0 lead with his first goal of the postseason.
"Matt's the captain and he led by example tonight," MacLean said. "That was a big goal. It gave us a little cushion heading into the second period."
Keith Johnson's power play goal gave the Stingrays a 3-0 advantage six minutes into the second period.
The Cyclones got their lone score on Jimmy Kilpatrick's power play goal.
"I thought we did a good job of closing out the game," MacLean said. "We still made some poor decisions with the puck, but overall I thought it was a solid effort."
Stingrays 2 1 0 - 3
Cincinnati 0 1 0 - 1
First Period: 1. SC, Ricci 1 (Scherer), :33. 2. SC, Scherer 1 (Kroll), 5:29. Penalties: Carbery, SC (hooking), 10:53; G. Johnson, SC (tripping), 15:03; Carbery, SC (roughing), 20:00; Sproat, C (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period: 3. SC, K. Johnson 1 (Yeo, Kroll), 6:20. 4. C, Kilpatrick 3 (Aubin, Krantz), 11:44. Penalties: Jozsa, C (hooking), 2:19; McKenzie, C (holding the stick), 6:08; Yeo, SC (hooking, unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:19; Caister, SC (delay of game), 10:18; G. Johnson, SC (roughing), 19:47; McKenzie, C (roughing), 19:47.
Third Period: Penalties: G. Johnson, SC (hooking), 2:00; Pierce, C (tripping), 4:22; Ehgoetz, C (roughing), 7:23; Carbery, SC (slashing), 19:40.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 8-13-10-31; Cincinnati: 6-10-10-26. Penalties: Stingrays 9-18; Cincinnati 6-12. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 4; Cincinnati 1 for 7. Goalies: Stingrays - Todd Ford (1-1-0) 26 shots, 25 saves. Cincinnati - Jeremy Smith (1-1-0) 31 shots, 28 saves. Att: 1,353.
--Compiled by Andrew Miller