Stingrays Fall in ECHL Conference Finals

Posted May 24, 2016

(via Sarah Hobday)

Three unanswered goals in the first five minutes of the third period were enough for the Wheeling Nailers to defeat the South Carolina Stingrays and advance to the Kelly Cup Finals. The 5-2 victory finished off the regular season for the South Division Champions, also marking the first time in ECHL history where the road team defeated the home team in both Game 6 and 7.

Vitek Vanecek played the entire game, stopping 27 of Wheeling’s 32 shots, but only making 10 of a possible 13 saves in the third period. Brian Foster shut the door in the second and third periods, finishing the game with 28 saves on 30 shots.

Wheeling and South Carolina traded goals through the opening 20 minutes, with the visitors opening the scoring with John McCarron. McCarron sent his eighth goal of the playoffs over the shoulder of a heavily-screened Vanecek. Wade Epp sent a similar shot at Foster 68 seconds later to be redirected by David Pacan.

Cody Wydo followed his shot at Vanecek, where it squeaked behind the goaltender, to bury his eighth of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Austin Fyten responded on the Stingrays’ otherwise anemic power play on a fast shot to score his eighth of the playoffs. The Stingrays piled on the pressure, but the first period ended tied at two.

In the last two games, the Stingrays and Nailers combined for seven goals in the first period. In the first five, the teams only had four.

Despite three Grade-A scoring chances for South Carolina, including an open-net chance for Colton Saucerman blocked by a a diving defender, the second period ended as it started with the teams tied at two goals.

Then, the wheels fell off the wagon. Jarrett Burton scored on a rebound, Jordan Kwas — the former Stingray — added to the advantage by following a Ty Loney shot, then Loney himself scored on a rebound of his own.

The Stingrays lost their composure, with Pacan and Foster trading blows in the crease for matching minors. Within minutes, Marcus Perrier, despite a few no-calls for penalties that would have been in the Rays favor, elbowed a Nailer to shave two minutes off the clock. Pacan then got ejected from the game for a boarding call and jawing with the official all the way to the locker room before shattering his stick in anger.

With the game out of reach, the North Charleston Coliseum crowd began chanting for Trevor Gillies, a 20-year veteran of hockey, to do something. Nothing transpired, and the Stingrays yielded their defense of the E.A “Bud” Gingher Trophy to their visitors from West Virginia.

Looking ahead, the Stingrays open the 2016-2017 regular season at home against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on October 22.