This week, Joe Shetrom talks to Stingrays Head Coach Jared Bednar about closing out the Columbia series, as well as the upcoming American Conference finals against the Cincinnati Cyclones.
In previous weeks I asked you how the Stingrays were able to get past Augusta and Gwinnett in their respective series. So, how were the Rays able to get the job done against Columbia?
Persistence. We were persistent, that’s for sure. We jumped out to a 2-0 lead again, then didn’t play that great in Game 3. But, Game 4, I thought we played really well and still came up short. It was a trying time. We got a day off from the rink, came back and really bounced back for Game 5. I was proud of our guys. It was a little bit of a frustrating series for us, I think, because (Todd) Ford was playing so well. We were having a tough time getting it by him. For that reason, I felt that it was one of the big reasons why we lost (Games) 3 and 4. It was nice to finally get by them and move on, that’s for sure.
Besides being the top point-producing team in the ECHL during the regular season, what do you know about the Stingrays’ next opponent, the Cincinnati Cyclones?
They allowed the lowest goals in the league, I want to say. [Note: The Texas Wildcatters allowed one less goal than Cincinnati] They are a very potent offensive team; they’ve got three very good lines and a lot of talented guys up front. They’re a touch on the smaller side, but they’re quick and they move the puck well. They have a very good transition game, and they have very good goaltending as well. We’re going to have to be very good defensively in order to win this series, there’s definitely no question about it in my mind.
The Stingrays were the odds-on favorite in their first three rounds, but are now the underdog facing Cincinnati in round four.
I think, when you get to this point, all your opponents are going to be very capable of winning. Cincinnati clearly had a very good season; I mean, they won the Brabham Cup. If you look at the numbers some of the players produced over the season, it’s an impressive year by their hockey club. On the same token, I think we’ve had a pretty good year. Maybe we’re slight underdogs, but I feel very confident in our team, that we can get the job done if we play the way that we’re capable of playing.
Cincinnati had a league-leading 29 wins during the regular season at U.S. Bank Arena. What do you say to your guys, especially with their road woes during the playoffs?
We’re well aware of their record, and we know what we’re getting into going in there. We know that they’re a very good home team, and we haven’t had much success on the road. We feel, as a group, that we’ve played pretty well on the road, even though we’ve been unable to come up with a win. We’ll have to go in there and put in a 60-minute effort. I’m sure there’s going to be a little bit of a feeling out process in the first game. I mean, they’re not going to know any more about us than we know about them. It’s going to be an interesting series. I don’t know exactly what to say to them, but I don’t think our guys have those feelings that we can’t win on the road.
What kind of pointers do you think former Stingray T.J. McElroy is giving his Cyclones teammates, and likewise, what do you think Rory Rawlyk is telling the Rays about his former teammates in Cincinnati?
I’m sure the Cincinnati guys are hearing a lot of the same things I’m hearing from Rory, which is nothing surprising when you really think about it. He has a lot of very good things to say about guys that he played with there, and their talent level. And I think T.J.’s probably telling the guys in Cincinnati the same thing, that we’re a very good hockey team and that they’re going to have to play their best to beat us. And I think that’s what it boils down to. It’s a game of opportunity, and I think you’re going to see two teams play extremely hard. Cincinnati went down three games to two to Reading and was able to come back and win that series. We’ve been a resilient team in the playoffs, as well. I think that you have two teams that want it bad, that are willing to fight for it. Whichever team plays their game to the best of their ability is probably going to win this series. And I’m sure there’s going to be a little luck involved as well.
Do you think Marty Guerin and/or Patrick McNeill will be in the lineup for Friday night’s Game One?
Marty Guerin is questionable for Game 1, and Pat is not going to play Game One.
The summer suit seems to be a well-discussed topic of late. It has been great for you in the elimination games, but have you given any thought to wearing up in Cincinnati, in hopes of snapping the losing streak on the road?
(Laughing) No, I won’t do that. It’s also well documented that I’m not a superstitious person. It is what it is. It’s a fun, little thing. Anything you can do to take your mind away from the series…. can be helpful, I think.
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