Stingrays Week 21 Recap: Playoff Bound!

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Posted March 27, 2016

(via the Stingrays)

With goaltender Mark Dekanich summoned up to AHL Hershey on Wednesday, the South Carolina Stingrays knew they needed a backup for Vitek Vanecek in their Thursday-Saturday series with the Atlanta Gladiators. With a playoff berth possible, the Stingrays also needed scoring depth to their lineup.

Both problems were solved before Thursday’s game, with Hershey reassigning Caleb Herbert to the Lowcountry and the addition of Dartmouth’s Jimmy Kruger on an Amatuer Tryout Agreement. Herbert played 26 games in the AHL, garnering two assists. Kruger just wrapped up his senior season with the Big Green, getting the team as high as 20th in the USCHO.com polls over the course of the season. Dartmouth bowed out of the ECAC playoffs in the semifinals to eventual winner Quinnipiac.

In his first stint as Vanecek’s backup, Kruger had a nice view to see former Dartmouth teammate Eric Neiley score his sixth goal of the season on a broken play in the Stingrays’ defensive zone. The goal came past the 12 minute mark of the second period.

Stingrays rookie Brett Cameron scored his 20th goal of the season, marking the first time since 2008-09 with the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) that he’s scored 20 goals in a season. After the second intermission, Austin Fyten put the Rays in front with his sixth of the year on the power play.

41 seconds later, Derek Nesbitt scored to tie the game and send it to overtime. He also put up the stretch pass to teammate Tyler Murovich for the overtime winner on a breakaway. Clinching a playoff spot would have to wait another day.

Caleb Herbert proved a non-factor in his return to the lineup, adding one shot on goal to the Stingrays’ total of 34. Both Vanecek and Gladiators’ goalie Matt Ginn picked up on their suerb goaltending from Thursday to draw out the game to the third period.

Kelly Zajac finally broke the deadlock at 2:49 of the third on the fourth Stingrays power play. With Ginn on the bench for the extra skater, David Pacan inched closer to the 20-goal plateau with his 19th goal from the center ice dot into the yawning cage.

The win guaranteed the Stingrays a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the 22nd time in the club’s 23 year history. They join the Manchester Monarchs from the East Division, the Toledo Walleye from the Norht, and the Florida Everblades from the South. The Missouri Mavericks are in the same situation the NHL’s Washington Capitals are in, clinching the conference before anyone else has made the playoffs.

Last year’s Stingrays went as far as Game 7 of the Finals against the Allen Americans before losing the Kelley Cup in Texas.

NEXT WEEK

The Stingrays finish off the home portion of their schedule with games against Atlanta (Tuesday) and Orlando (Friday and Saturday).

CURRENT STANDING

66 games played, 39-18-6-3 (W-L-OTL-SOL), 87 points, 1st in South Division

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