DULUTH -- The Gwinnett Gladiators' locker room was silent.
The team still sat, long after South Carolina's Maxime Lacroix scored the series-clinching goal in double overtime Sunday, absorbing the end of its season. Elbows rested on knees. Skates remained laced up. Heavyhearted, the players had nothing to say.
Team president Steve Chapman, who is also chairman of the ECHL's board of governors, had plenty to say.
"First, congratulations to South Carolina," Chapman said. "I have the utmost respect for their organization. (GM) Robbie Concannon is a great guy. I have nothing negative to say about the South Carolina Stingrays."
The league, on the other hand, that was another matter.
"I am unbelievably disappointed, to the point of being disgusted, in the leadership of our league on this particular night," Chapman said.
His ire stems from the Stingrays being granted permission by league commissioner Brian McKenna to add goaltender Rob Madore to their roster. Madore arrived in Gwinnett on Friday, a hour or so before the puck dropped on Game 3. The series was tied 1-1 after a pair of games in North Charleston. The Gladiators, as the higher seed, opted to play the first two games in the first-round best-of-five series on the road. At home for the next three games, Gwinnett was in good position against its division rival.
"I understand the amateur rule, but the only reason this kid would be available is because the team he was on ceased operations," Chapman said.
Goalie Daren Machesney skated in practice that morning for the Stingrays, the Washington Capitals' ECHL affiliate, and was called up to the AHL. Scrambling for a goalie, South Carolina picked up Madore. Ruled an amateur after completing his senior season at Vermont, Madore played 12 games for the Chicago Express. But the Express folded after missing the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. The official announcement wasn't made until Friday afternoon, a week later, though.
"Every other team in the history of our league, that didn't fold in the middle of the season, had its players made available June 1," Chapman said. "This year, they become available as soon as the season is over with.
"My hat is off to Rob Madore. He's a hell of a goaltender. I'm not taking anything away from him, but the fact of the matter is he should not have been allowed to play in this game."
Madore made 54 saves in a quadruple overtime win for South Carolina in Friday's game and helped seal the series with a stalwart performance during Sunday's double-overtime victory. The day between those games, McKenna spoke about the decision and called it a quirk that had never happened before -- and might never happen again.
"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."
Those comments did nothing to assuage Chapman's anger.
"Leadership is doing what is right -- versus what is conveniently arguable," said Chapman, his voice vibrating as emotion built. "That's the difference between leadership and just making excuses. I'm unbelievably disgusted with that ruling."