The momentum was clearly on the side of the South Carolina Stingrays coming out of the locker room in Game 5 on Friday night.
South Carolina led Florida, 2-1, going into the first intermission, and as the Stingrays returned to the ice for the second period, they noticed that Everblades starting goalie Allen York was not in net.
Rookie Daniel Altshuller had replaced York, a goalie the Stingrays had beaten twice down in Estero, Fla., and in the process had scored 10 goals.
But instead of the Stingrays adding to their one-goal lead, it was the Everblades who seized the momentum, scoring three times in the second period and grabbing a 4-2 lead. The Everblades would eventually win Game 5, 5-4, in double overtime.
“There’s no excuse this time of year to play like we did in the second period. None,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “We were run around the ice for 20 minutes and it cost us the game. I have no explanation for that kind of performance. The team that played in the second period in Game 5 didn’t look anything remotely like the team that’s been here all season.”
The best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals shifts back to Germain Arena for Game 6 on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Game 7 would be Tuesday night at Germain Arena.
The Stingrays, who lead the series 3-2, can still clinch the series with a victory Monday, but after winning the first three games, the momentum has clearly shifted to the Everblades.
“This time of year everything is going to be harder because everyone wants to win and advance to the next round,” Carbery said. “When we got up 3-0, I knew the series wasn’t over. I knew that Florida would push back, and they did. I wasn’t surprised. We were a bounce here or there from winning Games 4 and 5. But we’ve got realize that winning the next game is going to be most difficult one of the series.”
Carbery said he’s not concerned about the Stingrays’ mental health going into Game 6. The Stingrays were able to rally in the third period of Game 5 against Florida, scoring two goals over the final 20 minutes to send the game into overtime.
“We’ve been a resilient bunch all season,” Carbery said. “We’ve been in this situation before during the playoffs, so I’ve got no doubt that we’ll be able to reset and refocus for Game 6. We did it in Game 7 against Reading, and in Game 5 we scored a couple of times to get the game into overtime.”
Carbery said it doesn’t matter who plays in net for the Everblades — York or Altshuller.
“If we play like we’re capable of playing, then it shouldn’t matter,” Carbery said. “We’ve got to worry about ourselves.”