The series between the South Carolina Stingrays and the Reading Royals has closely resembled a heavyweight prize fight.
Each team has delivered what they believe to be the knockout blow during the first five games of the series only to have their opponent get up off the mat, dust themselves off and come back just as hard.
The Stingrays hold a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven ECHL East Division semifinal series going into Tuesday’s Game 6, which is set for 7:05 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum. The Stingrays can capture the series with a victory. A Royals win would force a decisive Game 7 Wednesday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
No team has been able to win back-to-back games during the series. The Stingrays are hoping to end that trend Tuesday night.
“This will be the toughest game we’ve played yet in the series,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “The elimination game, especially against a veteran team like Reading, is going to be the toughest game because they’ve got nothing to lose. They’re a desperate hockey team that’s going to do anything it can to keep their season going and live another day. This has been a back-and-forth series, so our players have to understand that Reading is going to come out and play their best game.”
It’s one thing to believe that a team can go on the road and win two playoff games on the opposition’s home ice. It’s another to actually get it done.
“There is zero doubt in Reading’s mind that they not only believe they can come down here and win two games, they know they can do it,” Carbery said. “They’ve already beaten us once in our own building. A younger team might say they can do it, but not really believe it, but Reading is a team that knows they can do it. They get a win Tuesday, and anything can happen in a Game 7.”
When the Stingrays have been good in this series, they’ve been able to get offensive contributions from all three lines. The more players involved offensively, the better the Stingrays’ chances to end the series Tuesday night.
“When we’ve been good, we’ve had two or three guys buzzing around the puck,” Carbery said. “It’s not just one guy having to carry the puck or do all the work. When we’ve had two or three guys hard on the puck, we’ve been able to create scoring chances.”
Carbery went with nine forwards and seven defensemen in Game 5. Defenseman Lee Moffie, who had missed the final two weeks of the regular season with an upper body injury, returned to the lineup to give the Stingrays an extra defensemen and one less forward.
“We wanted to get Lee into the lineup and get him going in the series,” Carbery said. “We feel good with those seven defensemen out there, but you take a risk with only nine forwards. If anyone gets hurt or you run into penalty issues, then you’re down a forward. Right now, we’re undecided on what we’re going to do.”