A lucky bounce.
In playoff hockey it can mean the difference between victory or defeat. That was certainly the case for the Gwinnett Gladiators on Wednesday night.
Gwinnett forward Ryan Ginand scored a goal and added an assist and Louis Domingue stopped 28 shots to lead the Gladiators past South Carolina 3-1 in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series before a crowd of 1,396 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
With the victory, the Gladiators grabbed a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Stingrays face elimination Friday night in Game 4 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
With the score tied at 1-1 early in the third period, the puck squirted out to the blue line and onto the stick of Gwinnett defenseman Justin Weller.
Weller took a slapshot that bounced off of not one, but two, Stingray defenders and past a helpless Ryan Zapolski for what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
There's no defense that could have stopped Weller's shot from going into the net. It was just random chance.
"We got some bounces, but I think sometimes you kind of build those up for the work you put into it," said Gwinnett captain Andy Brandt. "We got a lucky bounce with (Weller's) goal, but I think you get rewarded for the hard work you put into it. We'll certainly take it. It's what happens in the playoffs."
The Stingrays were totally outplayed in the first period as they were outshot 16-3 and fell behind 1-0 on Evan Bloodoff's power play goal for the Gladiators.
Between periods, Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery expressed his displeasure with the Stingrays effort in the locker room.
"It was very disappointing because I shouldn't have to go in there between periods and say the things I said in April," Carbery said. "If you can't get up for a home playoff game, then maybe you need to think about not being a professional hockey player."
The second period was all South Carolina as the Stingrays outworked and outhustled the Gladiators in all three zones.
"We knew they'd come out and answer us in the second period," said Gwinnett coach John Wroblewski. "That team has a lot of pride. We didn't do a good job of matching their energy level."
The Stingrays tied the game at 1-1 on Scooter Vaughan's powerplay goal midway through the second period.
The third period was nearly even as both teams had quality scoring chances. Twice the Stingrays were on the verge of scoring -- once from Jay Silvia and later from Robbie Dee -- only to have the puck bounce the wrong way.
"Third period was pretty even," Carbery said. "It comes down to a bounce and then you find yourself down 3-0 in the series."
Ginand got an empty-net goal with less than a minute to play.