DULUTH -- A perfect confluence of events allowed goaltender Rob Madore to suit up for the suddenly short-handed South Carolina Stingrays on Friday.
Madore, who arrived an hour before the game in Gwinnett, and the Stingrays prevailed in the fourth overtime of Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in their opening-round playoff series with the Gladiators. The second- longest game in league history ended 4:19 into the fourth overtime when Zach Tarkir scored for South Carolina.
Madore was excellent between the pipes, making 54 saves over 124 minutes and 19 seconds in the marathon win.
Madore stepped in for Daren Machesney, who was called up to the AHL after Friday's morning skate. Deemed eligible to play by the league the day of the game, two rules came into play -- and some incredible timing.
The 23-year-old from Pittsburgh played 12 games for the Chicago Express after his senior season at Vermont was complete. Madore is considered an amateur because he finished the season on Vermont's roster. Had he left the school to play in the pros before that time, he would be considered a professional.
"He is consider an amateur for the balance of the season," ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna said.
ECHL teams are allowed to add amateurs to their rosters after the trade deadline, even into the playoffs.
But in order for Madore to come to South Carolina, another factor was at work.
Madore was on Chicago's roster and as a protected player, couldn't have been picked up by South Carolina after the Express missed the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
But it was announced to the public Friday afternoon -- in those hours between Machesney's call up and the game -- that Chicago had folded and all its players were free agents.
McKenna said Chicago told the league as soon as its season was over last week that it would be returning its membership.
"Chicago didn't make the announcement right away," McKenna said. "They wanted to meet with staff and players before anything was made public. They waited until Friday."
Other teams have made similar announcements at this point in past seasons. Just last year, Victoria did so. Several years ago, Charlotte said it would be moving to the AHL before its regular season was even over.
It is up to the discretion of the individual team on the timing of such announcements, McKenna said.
"In terms of when South Carolina was aware, I don't know," McKenna said. "They were in a panic mode, I believe. Their No. 1 guy (Philipp Grubauer) was hurt and the Machesney was called up. No question, they were scrambling."
The rules stipulate Madore can play as an emergency backup even if the other goalie -- in this case Billy Sauer -- is healthy. But Madore would have to be released if Machesney returns from the AHL.
"This hasn't happened before," McKenna said. "The only reason it hasn't is because Chicago resigned its membership.
"It is a quirk, no question about it. It may be the sort of thing that never happens again."
With such a unique situation, there will be chatter amongst the faithful about conspiracies or questions about the validity of the decision.
"There are a lot of rules and regs in play," McKenna said. "Believe me, we want these things decided by the teams on the ice. I want to stay out of this. There were no rules to prevent them from having this player. We had no choice.
"I don't doubt we'll be looking at the amateur rule at the summer meeting, but that's the way things stand now."
Game 3 also featured a controversial no-goal call just 1:10 into the fourth OT when it appeared Pat Galivan batted the puck into the net. The goal light went on, but it was immediately waived off by referee Tom Chmielewski, who was behind the net along with a South Carolina player. For that call and many others, Chmielewski drew the vociferous ire of the home crowd. Those that stuck around past midnight were loudest in their booing of Chmielewski.
The ECHL doesn't employ a two-referee system or video replay, so there's no recourse for such situations.
"In heat of moment, Gali said to us that he didn't touch the puck, that it went off (the South Carolina defender)," captain Paul Flache said. "So that's our point of view.
"We don't have the luxury of any review, which may be something they should look into because we've had four or five goals called back this season. But we have to put it behind us."
Flache acknowledged there may have been a letdown after that goal was disallowed, but that none of it can matter to the team now. They must simply focus on the next game, today at 2 p.m. in the Arena at Gwinnett Center. It's win or go home.
"It's one game at a time, one period at a time," Flache said. "We definitely had chances to win, even in that first overtime. We just need to bury those chances. We need to have more jam around the net."
After leaving the rink on what was technically Saturday morning, the players had put in more than two games worth of work. They spent Saturday recouping their energy stores and getting mentally prepared to push this series to a deciding fifth game.
"It was a good group today," Flache said of the team's midday meeting at the arena Saturday. "It's a five-hour game and it's a heartbreaking loss. But you have to win three games to get the series anyway. We have to have a short memory.
"No championship team has won without some adversity."