Devin Is Game 7 Hero Again; Stingrays Advance to Conference Finals

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Posted May 12, 2016

(via Stingrays)

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC — His NHL comparison in big moments would easily be Justin Williams. Joe Devin, the 28-year-old out of Scituate, MA, scored yet another Game 7 double overtime game winner to help the South Carolina Stingrays win 3-2 advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

With this win, they eliminate a pesky Adirondack Thunder squad that came into North Charleston this weekend with the series lead at three games to two. They leave for upstate New York defeated and dejected.

“We’ve been battling all year, so I’m not surprised our team came out and played to win this” Devin said. “We’re gonna enjoy it right now but then tomorrow back to work; prepare for Friday [Game 1].”

The night did not begin as planned for the Lowcountry when Ben Johnson tossed a puck at the far post of starter Mark Dekanich. The puck clanged off the post and past him to give the visiting Thunder a 1-0 lead.

A mere 30 seconds later, the Stingrays threatened Ken Appleby‘s crease. Austin Fyten floated a puck at the net front where a screening David Pacan popped home the rebound to tie the game at one. That score would hold into the first intermission.

A last-minute second period power play allowed Adirondack to jump ahead again when Mitchell Heard slid onto one knee for a one-timer with a cross-ice pass. This marked the only time either team converted on their power play chances this evening.

After a Kelly Zajac faceoff win, Bobby Shea‘s floater at the midway mark of the third period squirted through the pads of Appleby. Referee Stephen Reneau emphatically pointed at the cage before Terrence Wallin could pull it off the line. Overtime was needed for the second time this series.

UPDATE: After the game, Brett Cameron was given credit for the Stingrays’ second goal, not Shea.

10:36 into the first overtime, Dekanich saved a point shot from Patch Alber and stayed down in the butterfly. He did not return to standing position until the whistle went at 10:41. After a moment with the Stingrays’ trainer, Dekanich left the ice and yielded the crease to 20-year-old rookie Vitek Vanecek. He finished the night with 18 saves.

“I didn’t feel great; had to get out” Dekanich said. The team will evaluate him on a day-to-day basis.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that; in double overtime where your starter goes out and now a guy’s gotta come in cold who’s just sat for basically two-and-a-half hours and hasn’t done a thing” Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery said. “[Vanecek] was ready when called upon and that was huge.”

Vanecek finished the game, stopping all eight shots he faced. The Washington Capitals 2nd round pick from two years ago will go down as the goaltender of record on this night.

“Throughout the year, they could throw either one of us in there and give us a chance to win. He obviously did a great job and he was ready. I’m proud of him” Dekanich said.

With five minutes to play in double overtime, the game appeared destined to go another period. The teams traded icings and offsides calls for a long time, a sign of sloppy passing.

Heard swiped the puck from Brett Cameron, but Shea came first to it and threw it high of Appleby. The crazy bounce off the back glass came right to the stick of Devin. With just enough space to put the game away, he did. His victory slide triggered a dog-pile right in front of Adirondack backup Drew Fielding.

“It could’ve gone either way, but [Devin] steps up with another huge goal for this organization” Carbery said. “Not only playoff goals, BIG goals… he thrives in those moments where its high pressure and there’s a lot at stake.”

Elsewhere in the ECHL tonight, the Wheeling Nailers defeated the Reading Royals in overtime 4-3. Wheeling is the affiliate of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, marking the third matchup for the Washington Capitals and Penguins organizations of this playoff season. South Carolina and Wheeling split a two-game set in early December in West Virginia.

The series with Wheeling will carry the same 2-3-2 format of this one, with the Rays opening at home on Friday night.