Stingrays Top Wings, Take Game 1

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Posted April 15, 2016

The win marked the Stingrays’ 100th playoff victory. (via the Stingrays)

In a physical battle that saw regulation 3-on-3 at one point, the South Carolina Stingrays had five men with two points to take care of the scoreboard. The Stingrays win the first game of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by a final of 4-1.

The Rays had to get reacquainted with the Wings Event Center, an arena they had not visited since March 7, 2014. The benches are placed on opposite sides of the neutral zone with the penalty boxes on the Kalamazoo side, much like an NCAA rink. The familiarity worked to Kalamazoo’s advantage, striking first with Ludwig Blomstrand on the power play.

Shortly after, the Rays would begin the avalanche of pressure and scoring chances. Derek DeBlois connected with a wide-open Kelly Zajac. Joel Martin had no chance and the game went to the intermission tied.

Some tense moments came as players converged after the whistle for a few seconds. Cooler heads prevailed, and the teams went to their respective locker rooms.

Caleb Herbert, in just his 16th game with the team all year, scored his first playoff goal by redirecting a centering pass from David Pacan.

Then, under a minute later, DeBlois and Zajac got the puck again off a Kalamazoo turnover. It went from DeBlois to Zajac and back again before he finally fired it past the out-of-position Martin for a 3-1 lead.

For the final frame, the Wings started just fine. But, a few turnovers later, the Rays resumed playing the game they had going for the last 35 minutes. Austin Fyten ripped one that Martin kicked right back to Fyten who did not miss on his second chance. With a 4-1 advantage, the Stingrays were too far out in front for any attempt at a comeback.

Mark Dekanich made 22 saves on 23 shots while five players had multi-point nights in front of him. Fyten, DeBlois, Herbert and Zajac all ended with a goal and an assist. Pacan finished his first playoff game in two years with two assists.

As the boos rained down from the Wings Event Center, South Carolina heard the horn sound, marking win number one on their return trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

The next Stingrays game will be tomorrow at 7 p.m.. Due to the circus at North Charleston Coliseum, the Rays are playing the first three games of this series on the road despite their #2 overall seed.