Stingrays Week 25 Recap: Playoffs

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Posted April 9, 2017

(Kelly Zajac, via Sarah Hobday)

For the tenth season in a row, the South Carolina Stingrays are in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

The Stingrays have only missed the playoffs once: 2006-07 when they missed out on the last South Division spot to the Augusta Lynx by one point.

South Carolina needed all the points they could get, plus a little help in the standings, to advance to the playoffs. They swept their three games this weekend to finish third in the South Division and face the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in round one.

The Hershey Bears sent Domenic Monardo back to South Carolina after his stint in the AHL. Monardo played 11 games and earned three assists. His return staved off the loan departure of Steven McParland to AHL Binghamton. Defenseman Mathieu Henderson signed with South Carolina for the weekend after his year with the Flint Firebirds (Ontario Hockey League) ended.

Wade Epp fell an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick in the Stingrays 3-1 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. Parker Milner stopped 21 of 22 shots for the win.

After Epp checked Shane Bakker into the corner behind Milner, Bakker slashed his left leg. Epp tossed his gloves and the first few punches, but Bakker scored the takedown after taking control when Epp’s helmet flew off.

After Andrew Cherniwchan won a faceoff with under two minutes to go, Joey Leach ripped a slapshot wide of Dan Vladar. The rebound riccocheted off the end boards and behind Vladar for Scott Tanski to whack over the line for his 11th goal.

Tyler Murovich equalized for Atlanta 34 seconds later after the Stingrays failed to clear the defensive zone. Bakker registered an assist, but he would finish a goal short of the Goride Howe.

Derek Arnold, found with no Gladiator around him for at least five feet, fired home the game winner from between the hash marks early in the second period.

Behind the play in the third, Marcus Perrier went toe-to-toe with Bakker. Bakker got the first few punches, then Perrier threw a few lefts while holding his jersey. Perrier lost his grip on one of the punches, and opted to grab Bakker in a headlock. Bakker grabbed at the armpit of Perrier’s jersey to avoid too many uppercuts before the linesmen stepped in.

Epp’s slapshot goal sealed the deal, and his arms-in-the-air, drink-it-in celebration indicated he knew that was the end.

Milner stopped 26 of 28 in the rematch from the North Charleston Coliseum, with Kevin Dufour’s breakaway goal sending South Carolina to the playoffs, 3-2.

Trevor Mingoia caught South Carolina defenders puck watching, driving right to Milner’s crease for his 20th of the season in the second period. Thomas Frazee put a rebound off a Tommy Vannelli shot behind Milner for a multi-goal lead.

Atlanta would play the third period with Josh Atkinson. The defenseman took a charging major and a game misconduct for hitting Olivier Archambault behind the play. Archambault did drop gloves and fight Vannelli earlier in the period, despite Vannelli not dropping his gloves.

Max Nicastro not only got South Carolina into the game with his fifth goal of the season, he did so in a way that took out Atlanta goalie Dan Vladar. After a faceoff win from Kelly Zajac, Joey Leach worked the back back to Joe Devin at the goal line. Nicastro charged the net behind the defense, and the pass came to him as he was sliding on his knees.

The puck crossed the line before Nicastro collided with Vladar, dislodging his mask and knocking him back to the mesh. It took a few minutes, but Vladar was able to skate off under his own power and yield the net to Matt Ginn. Vladar stopped 29 of 30 shots.

It looked like Dufour tied the game, but referee Korey Chipperfield washed it out for goaltender interference from Marcus Perrier. Perrier made contact with Ginn four seconds prior to the shot going in, but Ginn was still on his knees trying to regain positioning.

Perrier got the last laugh on Ginn when his shot bounced off Scott Tanski’s leg and behind him for the equalizer.

Andrew Cherniwchan started the play that made South Carolina a playoff team. From the right faceoff circle in the defensive zone, he flipped the puck over the defense to lead Dufour on a breakaway. Drew Baker went to the ice to swipe at the puck, setting it on edge but taking himself out of the play.

As Dufour settled the puck and moved to his forehand, Ginn jumped out to poke check it away. The poke did not work, as rookie Dufour returned to his backhand to slide the puck through Ginn’s open legs.

Epp held the puck along the boards as time expired, but dropped gloves with Ben Marshall after a higher hit than he would have liked. All ten skaters jumped in, Milner joined the fracas, and Epp and Leach ended up the only ones penalized for continuing the altercation.

With only seeding to play for, the Stingrays welcomed the Cincinnati Cyclones for their first meeting of the season. Adam Carlson stopped 24 of 27 shots for his ninth win of the season, and tenth team win in overtime of the year.

Prior to the game, the AHL’s Manitoba Moose gifted South Carolina their leading scorer, Rob Flick, back to the lineup. In five AHL games, Flick scored one goal and got into a fight.

Flick scored first and last for the Stingrays, ending the season with 31 goals to lead the team. Monardo got back on the scoresheet for the first time since being reassigned in the first period.

After three Cyclones’ goals, Joe Devin tied the game on the power play with help from Flick and Zajac. Zajac ends the year as the team’s leading scorer with 52 points (13 goals, 39 assists).

PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

South Carolina will see a familiar team in the first round: the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

Game 1 – South Carolina at Greenville – Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m.
Game 2 – South Carolina at Greenville – Friday, April 14 at 7 p.m.
Game 3 – Greenville at South Carolina – Monday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m.
Game 4 – Greenville at South Carolina – Tuesday, April 18 at 7:05 p.m.
Game 5* – South Carolina at Greenville – Friday, April 21 at 7 p.m.
Game 6* – Greenville at South Carolina – Monday, April 24 at 7:05 p.m.
Game 7* – South Carolina at Greenville – Tuesday, April 25 at 7 p.m.
*if necessary

FINAL STANDING

40-28-3-1, 84 points, 3rd in South Division