You’d think that after taking the first two games of the series on the road, the South Carolina Stingrays would be brimming with confidence.
Despite being up 2-0 in the best-of-seven Kelly Cup East Division final series against the Florida Everblades, South Carolina defenseman Scott Ford still believes that the Stingrays are the underdogs.
Game 3 of the series is Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum, and Game 4 is Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.
“I honestly believe that we’re still the underdogs in this series,” Ford said. “They had a fantastic season. They were the best team in our division, they won the division and they’ve got a very powerful offensive lineup. We just need to be prepared for their push back in our own building come Game 3. We need to have the same mindset we had when we went down there. It’s going to take a complete 60-minute effort and we’ve got to limit their scoring chances.”
While coach Spencer Carbery is pleased with the Stingrays’ 2-0 lead, he said the series is a long way from being settled.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather be up 2-0 than down 0-2 at this point, but getting those next two wins are going to be very difficult,” Carbery said. “This series is far from over. Florida is not going to go away quietly. They are a good road time like we are and they are certainly capable of coming up here and winning a couple of games.”
This will be the eighth game in the last 13 days for the Stingrays. The heavy workload hasn’t seemed to be a problem for South Carolina goalie Jeff Jakaitis, who will be making his 10th straight start in the playoffs. The 31-year-old is coming off his best game of the playoffs with 38 saves in the Stingrays’ 4-2 victory in Game 2 on Saturday.
“I feel good,” said Jakaitis, who is 6-3 with a 2.77 goals against average in the playoffs. “Like I’ve said before, generally I’m at my best when I’m playing a lot of hockey. I get into a rhythm, and this time of year is the best time to be playing.”
The Everblades, among the top-scoring teams during the regular season, have five goals in two games against the Stingrays.
“We need to continue to take care of the puck,” Ford said. “I think the biggest problem for us is when we hold the puck too long and try to make plays through the middle of the ice that are too fancy or too high-octane. We create scoring chances by doing detailed plays. Putting pucks into space and behind their defensemen and using their aggressiveness against them.”
The Everblades could see the return of goalie Allen York on Tuesday. York, who played for the Stingrays last season, suffered an upper body injury in the Everblades’ opening-round series against Orlando and has missed the first two games of the current series.
Rookie Daniel Altshuller, a third-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012, started the first two games against the Stingrays and has given up 10 goals. York was 17-5-3 with a 2.65 goals against average and a .903 save percentage for the Everblades during the regular season. He has played 11 games in the NHL with Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2011-12 season. York was 8-4-1 with a 2.29 goal against average and .922 save percentage with the Stingrays during the 2013-14 season.
“We anticipate that Allen is going to be back in net at some point in this series,” Carbery said. “We all know how good Allen is. He did a great job for us when he played here last year. We can’t worry about who Florida puts in the net. At the end of the day, we’ve still got to get pucks past them, whoever is in there.”
Florida forward Mitch Wahl has been suspended for the rest of the East Division finals against South Carolina for a high-sticking incident at the end of the second period in Game 2 this past Saturday.
Wahl is fined and suspended under Rule #28 – Supplementary Discipline as a result of his actions at 19:49 of the second period.
Wahl was one of the Florida’s top forwards during the regular-season with 15 goals and 44 assists for 59 points in 53 games.