2003 - 2004
April 4, 2004
Generals fall short of ECHL playoffs
Generals - 4
Stingrays - 2
BY ANDREW MILLER
Special to the News & Record
CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Greensboro Generals won their season finale, but lost out on their bid to make the ECHL playoffs.
Pete Gardiner scored two goals, including one shorthanded in the third period to lead Greensboro past South Carolina 4-2 on Saturday night before a crowd of 7,129 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
But the team needed help to reach the postseason, and didn't get it. The Florida Ever-blades and Roanoke Express won home games Saturday to nail down the final two playoff spots in the Southern Division.
Greensboro finished in fifth place, one point out of the playoffs.
South Carolina, which clinched a playoff spot Friday night in a shootout loss to Columbia, finished fourth in the standings, one point ahead of Greensboro.
Greensboro coach Rick Adduono, the former Stingrays coach, said he was disappointed the Generals did not make the playoffs.
"These guys spilled their guts and gave us everything they had," Adduono said. "It was do or die tonight and everyone just played a phenomenal game.
"Greensboro deserves better. You don't have 20 home wins and 20 road wins and not make the playoffs. There's something wrong there.
"But that's life and that's the way it is. This franchise has come a long way, we've had 82 wins in two years. Unfortunately, we won't get a chance to win the Kelly Cup."
With a chance to secure second place and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, the Stingrays looked a like a tired team after playing eight games in 12 days.
"We knew back in August when the schedule came out that this was going to be the toughest stretch of the season for us," coach Jason Fitzsimmons said. "We'd just been through eight games in 12 nights and when I walked in there in the second period I knew these guys were out of gas.
"I kind of had a feeling that this might happen in the third period. It's frustrating. I would have liked to have won and had home-ice advantage, but I have to look at the big picture. The next season begins when we wake up (today)."
Again it was special teams that let the Stingrays down. Although the Stingrays scored a power-play goal, they gave up two goals on the man-advantage and gave up their second short-handed goal in as many games.
The biggest blow came midway through the third period after a five-minute spearing penalty on Greensboro's Mike Bayrack, the Generals' leading scorer.
"If it was going to happen for us, it was going to happen then," Fitzsimmons said.
Trailing 3-2 at the time, Greensboro forward Mark Turner forced a turnover at the Stingrays' blue line. Turner skated the length of the ice, slid the puck to Gardiner, who chipped it over South Carolina goalie Kirk Daubenspeck for the score with 11 minutes left in regulation. It was the 19th shorthanded goal the Stingrays have given up this season.
"That was the difference," Fitzsimmons said. "Our special teams have not been good down the stretch. It's something that we're going to address at practice on Monday."
Adduono agreed that special teams were a key in the victory.
"I thought that might be sign for us when we got that shorthanded goal," Adduono said. "I thought maybe Roanoke or Florida would lose, but you can't depend on other teams. I can't say enough about the way our guys killed penalties and worked on the power play. It was bittersweet game for us tonight."
Despite the loss, Fitzsimmons said the Stingrays had an optimistic outlook on the final week of the season.
"We went into a stretch this week where we had to win and we did," Fitzsimmons said. "We got five out of eight points and that was good enough to get us in the playoffs. Yeah, I would have liked to finish in second and have home ice, but I'm proud of these guys. They battled through a tough stretch with all these injuries and made the playoffs.
"Everyone starts at the same place now. We're all back to square one and everyone has the same goal - win the Kelly Cup. It takes 14 wins to get there. I felt like the road to the Kelly Cup was going to have to go through Columbia."
Generals - 4
South Carolina - 2
Site: North Charleston Coliseum, Charleston, S.C.
Why the Generals won: The Generals took advantage of the middle of the South Carolina defense, getting goals by Joel Irwin and Pete Gardiner in that fashion.
Stars: Greensboro - Jamie Hodson, 25 saves. Gardiner, two goals.
The play: The Generals assumed their first lead of the game 7:27 left in the second period after Matt Turek and Eric Fortier found Joel Irwin with a centering pass. Irwin's goal put Greensboro up 2-1.
Records: Greensboro 40-30-2-82. South Carolina 39-28-5-83