Stingrays Even Kelly Cup Finals With 4-2 Win

Posted June 27, 2021

photo via Michael Wiser Photography

NORTH  CHARLESTON, S.C. — Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals featured everything. Big hits gave way to post whistle scrums. Between the whistles there were scoring chances galore. The South Carolina Stingrays and Fort Wayne Komets put on a show for the last game in Charleston for the season, ending with the home fans going home happy following a 4-2 Stingrays victory.

All of the scoring game in a six-goal second period, with half of it coming in 56 seconds on Sunday night at the Carolina Ice Palace. The Stingrays scored four of the six goals to rebound from an opening game loss and even the series at one game apiece as the series shifts to Fort Wayne for the last three games.

“I thought it was a really good response by our group,” Stingrays head coach Ryan Blair said. “[Fort Wayne] had a really good push. They had a lot of momentum from game one. But we weathered it in that first period and then I thought we were really solid the rest of the way.”

After dominating Game 1 en route to a 7-2 win, the Komets came out of the gate firing once more in Game 2. Just after the six minute mark, and a horrific icing call, Justin Florek took a roughing minor to put the Rays short handed. 

Florek had a semi-breakaway right out of the box but couldn’t convert as the puck rolled right off his stick. But that seemed to jolt the home side.

The Stingrays capitalized on the momentum from the kill and user an aggressive forecheck to generate turnovers, and with just over five minutes left, a power play. 

The Stingrays came tantalizing close to converting on the man advantage striking iron, but couldn’t find the back of the net. The teams headed to the locker room tied at 0 with the Rays holding a 10-6 advantage in shots. 

In the second period, the Rays picked up right where they left off. They drew a penalty just 65 seconds into the frame, and this time, they converted. 

A rebound found it’s way to Novak who made no mistake


Eighteen seconds later, the Komets answered and the game was back to being square. 

But the Rays kept up the pressure and ice again found the leading tally with 13:32 to go in the middle frame. Dan DeSalvo found himself all alone in the slot and rifled a shot to the corner to restore the Rays a lead. 

“We were kind of riding a little high after that first goal,” Novak said. “Then they scored and we were too low. We were on a rollercoaster of emotions there, which you try to avoid in the playoffs.”

After frantic opening 10 minutes of the second period, the game seemed to calm down, until Cole Ully gave South Carolina a two goal lead in what would be the first of a trio of goals in under a minute.

For the second time tonight, the Komets answered right back in 18 seconds. This tally came with some controversy. 

It appeared as if the net behind Hunter Shepard came off it’s pegs as he was sprawled on the ice. The goal stood without video replay, as none was available. 

“The ref just said he was in a really good spot, that he could see it,” Blair said. “I thought there was maybe some goalie interference, but he said he had a great view of it and it was clean.”

The booing fans quickly had something to cheer about as Caleb Herbert finished off a three goals in 56 seconds. 

“A testament to the group. They were resilient, ” Blair said about his team’s ability to respond in the back-and-forth period. “We got to try to keep those leads if we can. They stuck to it and it was a bit of a rollercoaster in the second in terms of emotions.”

The third period was a master class in defending a lead by the Rays. They controlled the period. With the period half over, the Komets had generated just two shots. They finished with seven in the third. 

With the win, the Stingrays find themselves in a familiar position. This time the stakes are a little higher. Rather than just picking up points or winning a series, winning the upcoming week would result in a Kelly Cup Championship. 

“We just got to play our game,” Blair said. “Stick the course. It doesn’t matter where we play. We just got to play our game like we did tonight. I think we got a really good shot if we do that.”