KALAMAZOO, MI – Kalamazoo’s top forward line came in to tonight’s game with just four points between the three of them. Joel Martin was left to fend for himself facing 74 shots in the first two games. Game 3 would prove to be a different story as Martin would finally get the offensive support from his forward corps to help him steal a game.
It was South Carolina that came out with energy and seemed as though they would take control of the game. The Stingrays would find the net first on the Powerplay from Nick Jones. Mark Dekanich would pick up an assist on the marker that came 6:47 in to the frame.
Kalamazoo came out strong in the second with a powerplay of their own and took advantage. With Dekanich down and unable to recover, Justin Kovacs buried his first goal of the playoffs just 1:01 in to the second. Zack Phillips would strike five minutes later to give Kalamazoo only its second lead of the series at 2-1. The Wings were playing their best hockey of the series and taking it to South Carolina.
The Stingrays didn’t sit well with trailing, however. Brett Cameron made a strip and beat Joel Martin to tie the game back up at 2 midway through the second. It was another powerplay goal for the Rays.
Kalamazoo regained the lead on the powerplay at the 14:40 mark and finished the period up 3-2. The Wings were 25-0-4-1 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes.
The Stingrays got back to their dominating style of play in the third period. It was the Joel Martin show as he turned aside chance after chance. South Carolina was forcing turnovers and spend the better part of three minutes in the Kalamazoo zone. Martin stood tall allowing Justin Kovacs to score his second goal of the game for the 4-2 lead.
Derek DeBlois found Joe Devin to make things interesting with just three minutes to play to bring the game back to within one. Joel Martin finished the game stopping 18 of the19 shots he faced in the third period and 38 of 41 shots total.
The Stingrays top line of Caleb Herbert, David Pacan and Austin Fyten was held off the scoresheet.
South Carolina will take a 2-1 series lead back home to Charleston where the series will stay the rest of the way. Game 4 will be on Thursday at 7:05 PM at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Patrick Gaul was spotted on the Stingrays bench for the third period but did not take a shift. The gutsy forward is a key cog of the Stingrays Penalty Killing unit. Marcus Perrier moved up and took Gaul’s place at forward.
Stingrays rookie goalie Vitek Vanecek was rewarded for his stellar season with a call up to AHL Hershey on Sunday. Vanecek was given the nod to start the bears final game of the regular season. It was like he had been up all season stopping 25 of 26 shots and two shots in the shootout for the 2-1 win.
After the game, Bears head coach Troy Mann spoke about Vanecek “I thought he made some excellent saves and gave us a chance and as a coach that’s all you can ask for and he did that and it was great to see” Mann said. When asked about Vitek’s game “He looks very quick, very under control.”
Vanacek was returned to the Stingrays after the game and backed up Mark Dekanich in Game 3.