Stingrays ‘just need to relax and execute’ in Game 5 of Kelly Cup Finals

The Stingrays Patrick Gaul (22) takes a shot against Allen’s goalie Riley Gill during Sunday night’s Kelly Cup game. (Brad Nettles/Staff)

It’s time for the South Carolina Stingrays to relax a little.

You’d think in the middle of the Kelly Cup Finals the message from a head coach would be just the opposite, but Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery said his team needs to calm down and everything will be OK.

If the Stingrays are going to capture their fourth Kelly Cup title, they’ll have to do two things that have become difficult over the last several weeks — win at home and convert on the power play.

After four games of the Kelly Cup Finals, the Stingrays and Allen Americans are tied at two games each with Game 5 set for Tuesday night at the North Charleston Coliseum. Game 6 will be Wednesday night at home. A Game 7, if necessary, would be played Sunday in Allen, Texas.

The Stingrays have set an ECHL postseason record with 10 wins on the road this year, but have been less than mediocre at the North Charleston Coliseum, going just 4-7 on home ice. The Stingrays have lost three straight and five of their last six games at home. Granted, four of the Stingrays’ seven home losses, including Game 4 Sunday against Allen (3-2 double overtime), have come in overtime. But the last time the Stingrays won a game in regulation on their home ice was a 3-2 victory against Florida more than a month ago (May 5).

“I think the guys just need to relax,” Carbery said. “It’s not like we’ve played that badly at home. We haven’t got the results we wanted at home, but it’s not like we’re getting blown out. We’ve lost, what, four games in overtime at home. A bounce here or there and we’d have a couple more wins.

“It’s like a hitter when he goes to the plate and wants to hit a home run when a walk or a single will do just as well. We go up there and swing for the fences. There are times when I’m sure guys felt like they had to go out and score on the next shift, and when it didn’t happen it was discouraging. Our hearts and desire are in the right place, we just need to relax and execute a little bit better.”

South Carolina captain Andrew Rowe and Wayne Simpson, the top two scorers during the Kelly Cup playoffs, said there’s nothing mental about playing at home during the postseason.

“We love playing in front of our crowd,” Simpson said. “We had 7,000 for Game 4 and they were great all night. We’ve had some good efforts, but haven’t been getting the bounces at home for whatever reason. We don’t think about where we are playing or the situation. We just have to keep focusing on what makes us successful.”

After getting off to a good start in the playoffs, the Stingrays’ power play has become anemic over the last two weeks. The Stingrays have yet to record a goal on the man-advantage against Allen, going 0 for 15 through the first four games. The Stingrays are 0 for 23 over the last seven games and have not scored a power-play goal since May 23 against Toledo.

“Special teams are important because we’ve been pretty good five-on-five,” said Rowe, who leads the postseason with 14 goals. “We’ve been changing things up and watching video and working on it in practice. I just think we’ve got to not let it frustrate us. I thought we had some good power plays (Sunday), and hopefully we can build on that. It’s a work in progress, even during the playoffs.”

Defenseman Michal Cajkovsky left Sunday’s game during the third period and played limited minutes in overtime. Cajkovsky was suffering from cramps and should be ready to play Tuesday in Game 5, Carbery said.

“Yeah, Mike’s fine, just needed to get some fluids in him.”