NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Eastern Conference Finals will come down to a winner-take-all Game 7 tonight. Jarrett Burton scored with 1:18 left in overtime to help the Wheeling Nailers (11-8) earn a 4-3 win over the South Carolina Stingrays (11-7) in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday night. The two teams will determine which club will represent the Eastern Conference in the Kelly Cup Finals in Game 7 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
South Carolina opened the scoring just 43 seconds into the game on a goal by Kelly Zajac to send the crowd of 3,589 into a frenzy. The Stingrays would feed off that energy, as Stephan Vigier doubled the lead at 5:38. Zajac intercepted a Wheeling pass and fed Vigier in front. He deflected a shot past Wheeling goaltender Brian Foster from the slot to make it 2-0.
Much like they have all season, Wheeling mounted a comeback and scored the next three goals of the game. Anton Zlobin, playing in his first game of the series, scored his first of two goals, snapping a shot from the point on the power play that deflected past netminder Vitek Vanecek to make it 2-1. The goal came at 10:12 of the first period.
In the middle frame, Wheeling’s John McCarron would take advantage of a turnover, and flipped a backhand shot over a sprawled Vanecek to make it 2-2 at 11:58 of the second period. Cody Wydo collected the lone assist on the goal.
The Nailers would take a brief lead as Zlobin scored his second power play goal of the game at 4:50 of the third period, ripping a one-time shot from the right wing over the left shoulder of Vanecek. Ty Loney‘s cross-ice pass setup a wide open Zlobin for his third goal of the playoffs.
Only 2:59 later, the Stingrays would strike to tie the game. Caleb Herbert deflected a David Pacan shot between the legs of Foster from the crease at 7:49 for his 10th goal of the postseason. In a rush over the blueline, Austin Fyten dropped the puck to Pacan. He let a shot from the slot fly towards the goal, and Herbert’s redirect found room between Foster’s pads to make it 3-3. The assists for Pacan and Fyten extended their point-streak to nine and 10 games respectively.
For the second time the series, the contest was decided in overtime. With around five minutes left in overtime, the Stingrays thought they had scored to win the game. Bobby Shea drove the puck to the goal, and Pacan swatted a shot towards the net. Foster’s body, with the puck under his pad, landed near the goal line. The Stingrays started to celebrate, but the goal light never turned on and the officials met and determined there was no goal on the play.
Also for the second time in the series, it would be Wheeling’s Burton who would score the winning goal in overtime. The Game 2, double-overtime hero, again provided the heroics, snapping a shot on a two-on-two rush over the glove of Vanecek for his third goal of the playoffs at 18:42 of overtime.
Each team fired 34 shots in the game. Special teams was the difference in the contest, as Wheeling went 2-for-4 on the power play while the Stingrays were 0-for-8.