NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – Right off the bat, the South Carolina Stingrays went into game three with a must-win attitude. They were cleaner and sharper in the first period than I had seen them be in a few games.
With about six minutes gone in the first, the Rays went on their first power play and Kelly Zajac shocked everyone by using his brain to net a beautiful pass from Rob Flick. It was the perfect goal to open the scoring for the Rays.
The excitement of the goal was short-lived, however. At the 11:07 mark, Marcus Perrier was sent to the box for tripping and shortly after that Julian Nantel scored for Colorado to tie the game. It felt as though it was all downhill from there for the Stingrays in terms of penalties. They ended up taking four penalties all in the first period, and that doesn’t make for productive play at all.
Those four penalties set the tone of the game for South Carolina. They wound up taking several unnecessary penalties throughout the game. Typically, that may not seem like too many penalties to take, but for South Carolina, dumb penalties are the last thing that they need to be dealing with, especially since they have had a hard time finding their footing in this series.
South Carolina would jump back on top early in the second period when forward Andrew Cheriwchan corralled a rebound in the slot and snapped it past Eagles goalie Lukas Hafner to give the Stingrays the 2-1 advantage just 1:08 into the middle frame.
The Eagles would again find an answer, as defenseman Sergei Boikov launched a one-timer from the blue line that weaved its way through traffic and lit the lamp, knotting the game at 2-2 at the 12:09 mark of the second period.
Stingrays forward Steven McParland would put his club back in the driver’s seat when he forced a turnover at the South Carolina blue line and raced down the left wing, snapping the puck past Hafner from the left circle to put South Carolina up 3-2 with 4:22 remaining in the second period.
Colorado would yet again find a way to level the score when defenseman Jake Marto fired a shot from the left circle that beat Milner and tied the game at 3-3 with 9:51 left in the third period.
Forward Joe Devin would break the stalemate just minutes later on the power play when he stuffed home a rebound off the end wall to put the Stingrays back on top by a count of 4-3 with only 3:41 remaining in the final frame.
The penalties would end up coming back to bite the Stingrays, however, with Marcus Perrier taking a trip to the box for tripping with 31 seconds left in regulation. Defenseman Matt Register would grab his own rebound off a shot from the point and blast it into the back of the net to knot the game at 4 with only 25 seconds left.
Matt Garbowsky ended the game 6:07 into the first overtime with a slapshot from the high slot to give Colorado a 5-4 win.
The Colorado Eagles are one win away from their first Kelly Cup Championship and first league title since 2007. Game four happens tonight at the North Charleston Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7:05pm.