Stingrays look to take control of series

Stingrays forward Caleb Herbert (47) dives over Royals goaltender Connor Knapp (30) during a ECHL first round playoff game, between the Reading Royals and the South Carolina Stingrays, Thursday, April 23, 2015, at Santander Arena, Reading, PA. Special to the Post and Courier: Tom Boland

South Carolina Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery knows the Reading Royals will push back Saturday night.

With the Stingrays leading the best-of-seven East Division semifinal series, 2-1, Carbery expects the Royals to play their best game of the series in Game 4.

The Stingrays defeated the Royals, 5-2, Thursday night in Game 3.

A South Carolina victory Saturday in Game 4 at Santander Arena (7:30 p.m.) would give the Stingrays a stranglehold on the series. Game 5 of the series will be played Sunday at Santander Arena at 5 p.m.

“Without a doubt, I expect Reading to come at us with everything they’ve got in Game 4,” Carbery said. “There’s going to be a major pushback from them. They’ve got a great hockey team and their building on a Saturday night should be rockin’. It’s going to be a big crowd and they’re going to make a lot of noise. We’ve got to be prepared for that. We’ve got to be able to respond to their energy.”

Thus far, the Stingrays have struggled to get going in the first period. The Stingrays have not recorded a goal in the first period and have been outscored, 4-0, during the series in the opening 20 minutes.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a better first period in Game 4,” Carbery said. “The first period has been our worst period in all three games. We’re going to have to weather that storm early on because they are not going to be a very happy group after losing Game 3.”

The second period has been the most productive period of the series for the Stingrays. The Stingrays have outscored Reading, 6-2, including 3-1 during Game 3 Thursday night.

“For whatever reason, we seem to regroup and play much better in the second period,” Carbery said. “Our decision-making gets better, we move our feet and we tend to get stronger as the game goes on. We just can’t dig ourselves a big hole like we did in Game 2 when we got down 3-0 in the first period.”

One of the keys for the Stingrays has been staying out of the penalty box. The Stingrays have twice as many power plays — 14-7 — through the first three games of the series.

“I think we’re a between the whistle kind of team,” Carbery said. “If you’re going to challenge us, we’re going to answer the bell every time. What we try not to do is take undisciplined penalties and swing our sticks around a lot. We’re a physical team and we’ve got toughness throughout the lineup, but we try to be smart about what we do on the ice.”