South Carolina captain Matt Scherer sat slumped in the penalty box, his head in his hands.
After five grueling games, including three that went into the overtime, the series had ended on a simple tap in on a power play.
Cincinnati captain Barret Ehgoetz scored two goals, including the game-winner with 3:45 left in the first overtime to lead Cincinnati past South Carolina, 3-2, on Sunday night in Game 5 of the ECHL American Conference quarterfinal series at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Cyclones captured the best-of-five series, 3-2, and will take on Charlotte, which eliminated Toledo, on Friday night.
This is the second time in three years the Cyclones have eliminated the Stingrays from the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
"It's a tough way to end a series like this," said an emotional Scherer after the game. "It's a real punch to the stomach. We were certainly not ready for the season to end. After all the battling and all the overtime
games, to lose it when you're in the penalty box was tough to swallow."
After Scherer was called for a boarding penalty on Doug Krantz, the Cyclones' game winner came from the most unlikely of sources -- their power play, which had converted on just one of 19 chances up until that final chance.
"Everyone gave it everything they had out there tonight and sometimes you go through guys a little too hard and end up in the box," Scherer said. "You know the next goal can clinch it, and unfortunately that was the outcome for us tonight. We're like mirror images of each other."
Ehgoetz's power-play goal came off of a Jimmy Kilpatrick rebound. The puck was loose for an instant just outside the crease before Ehgoetz slammed it home.
"The power play has been our Achilles' heel all season," said Ehgoetz. "I've always said it's not how many power-play goals you get, but when you score them.
"It's a great feeling to get an overtime goal, but to get one that ends a series is something special. It was a great series. We were talking in the locker room after the game that this was the longest, toughest week of hockey we've been through. That's a great team we beat."
Cyclones rookie goalie Jeremy Smith made 32 saves to pick up his third win in the series.
"I can't count how many big saves he made for us in this series," said Cincinnati coach Chuck Weber. "We rode him these last three games."
The Cyclones took a 1-0 lead when Ehgoetz tapped in a loose puck just 2:46 into the game.
The Stingrays answered less than five minutes later when Trent Campbell found Keith Johnson in the slot for a one-timer that easily beat Smith to tie the game at 1-1.
The Stingrays pushed their lead to 2-1 on Derek Keller's goal 2:06 into the second period.
Keller got the puck at the point and wristed what appeared to be an innocent shot on net. However, the puck hit a Cyclones defenseman in front of the crease and bounced over Smith's shoulder for the goal.
The Cyclones tied the game with 5:32 left in regulation when Kilpatrick picked up a loose puck inside the Stingrays' zone and wristed a shot past South Carolina goalie Todd Ford for the score.
First Period: 1. C, Ehgoetz 3 (Heidinger, Aubin), 2:46. 2. SC, K. Johnson 2 (Campbell, G. Johnson), 7:08. Penalties: Keller, SC (high sticking), 15:35; Bruess, SC (tripping), 16:13; Pierce, C (holding), 19:12.
Second Period: 3. SC, Keller 1 (Caister, Scherer), 2:06. Penalties: Del Monte, C (cross checking), 16:21.
Third Period: 4. C, Kilpatrick 4 (Sproat, Pierce), 14:28. Penalties: Bruess, SC (tripping), :36; Farrell, SC (interference), 16:12.
Overtime: 5. C, Ehgoetz 4 (Aubin, Kilpatrick), 16:15. Penalties: Kilpatrick, C (tripping), :35; O'Hanley, C (delay of game), 2:16; Bruess, SC (holding), 4:24; Kilpatrick, C (high sticking), 6:54; Scherer, SC (boarding), 15:58.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 10-7-8-9--34; Cincinnati: 14-7-9-8-38. Penalties: Stingrays 6-12; Cincinnati 5-10. Power Play: Stingrays 0 for 5; Cincinnati 1 for 6. Goalies: Stingrays - Todd Ford (2-3-0) 38 shots, 35 saves. Cincinnati - Jeremy Smith (3-2-0) 34 shots, 32 saves. Att: 1,946.