North Charleston, SC – Any coach’s worst nightmare is the too many men on the ice penalty. Kalamazoo was guilty of the infraction at the worst possible time: 52.9 seconds left in regulation of a tie game. It would take Joe Devin just 13 seconds to score the eventual game winner and push South Carolina to a 3-1 series lead.
The Stingrays picked up right where they had left off in Game 3. South Carolina had no trouble getting down the ice and entering the offensive zone. It took six minutes before Vitek Vanecek, who was making his first start in the playoffs, was really tested.
All Kalamazoo could really do was ice the puck. Austin Fyten broke in and made a beautiful move around the defender to find Caleb Hebert in the slot who potted his 3rd goal of the playoffs to give South Carolina the 1-0 lead.
Kalamazoo would respond with a push to even out the chances. Ludwig Blomstrand would catch Vanecek leaning to tie the game at 1 at 19:08 in the first.
Barrage would be an accurate description of the play in the second period. Once again South Carolina had no problem getting in to the zone and creating chances. Joel Martin stood on his and did all he could to keep the game tied. Joe Devin fired a loose rebound home to give the Stingrays a 2-1 lead. South Carolina threw 23 shots at Martin in the second period compared to just three for Kalamazoo.
Even with the high shot disparity, Kalamazoo would not go away. Justin Taylor scored a huge shorthanded goal just 45 seconds in to the third period. Kalamazoo found new life and kept Vanecek busy. The period could have gone either way as both sides had legitimate scoring chances but none finding the back of the net.
The game seemed destined for overtime when Kalamazoo was called for too many men on the ice. Stingrays playoff hero of 2015 scored his second goal of the game and fourth of the playoffs to give South Carolina the 3-1 series lead.
Vitek Vanecek made 27 saves on 29 shots in his playoff debut while Joel Martin made 43 saves on 46 shots.
Stingrays Injury News:
Stingrays forward Patrick Gual did not play as result of an injury suffered in game three. Marcus Perrier moved up from defense to take Gaul’s spot. Freshly signed Colton Saucerman jumped in to the lineup to take Perrier’s place on the blue line.
South Carolina will have a chance to advance to round two on home ice Saturday at 7:05 pm. The winner of this series will play Adirondack who just finished off Manchester.