NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – This series was hard fought by both sides and it’s only fitting that it took double overtime in Game Seven to decide it.
Adirondack found the twine first as Ben Johnson fired a dipping puck past a stunned Mark Dekanich for the 1-0 lead just five minutes in. It was an uncharacteristic goal for Dekanich to give up.
The quick goal proved to be the wake up call that the Stingrays needed. For the next 36 seconds of play, Adirondack wouldn’t get a sniff of the puck until it was in the back of their net.
After a shift of cycling, Austin Fyten hit the post from the circle and David Pacan cut through the slot and buried the rebound for his first goal of the playoffs.
The Stingrays controlled play for the most part for the rest of the first with the help of a five-on-three though they were unable to convert.
It was another patented strong second period for the Stingrays. Again, they were able to cycle the puck at will in their offensive zone. But, despite their best efforts, couldn’t find the net and it appeared the period would end in a tie when Austin Fyten took a slashing penalty under one minute remaining.
Twelve seconds later, Peter MacArthur found Mitchell Heard across the ice who fired the puck in to the wide open net for the 2-1 lead. Stingrays outshot Adirondack 11-4 in the frame.
The relentless pressure paid off midway through the third when Bobby Shea walked in and fired a shot that just barely squeaked through Ken Appleby’s legs and over the goal line to tie the game at two.
After finishing the third on their heels, Adirondack came out a completely different team in the overtime period. The Stingrays were caught in their defensive zone for long periods of time. Gradually it became a game of waves with the Thunder pushing and then the Stingrays pushing back.
The Stingrays took a big blow with 9:19 left in the first overtime when Dekanich awkwardly made a save and was slow to get up. He was unable to continue, pressing the 20-year-old Vitek Vanecek in to the game.
Vanecek would face his first real test when Wade Epp threw the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. The penalty-killing unit did its job and kept South Carolina alive. The first overtime slightly tilted the ice toward the Thunder but provided no scoring with the shots 10-9 in favor of South Carolina.
The back and fourth action carried over to the second overtime but it was clear the fatigue was setting in. The Stingrays started to take the game over a little by creeping closer and closer to the net on their chances.
Sometimes the puck just finds big game players at the right time and that’s how this contest would finally end. Call him Mr. Playoffs and call him “Mr. Game 7”. A loose rebound bounced to none other than Joe Devin who made no mistake and deposited it past Appleby for the game winner. The goal was his ninth of the playoffs and fourth career goal in a game seven.
Vanecek made eight saves to pick up the win in relief of Dekanich. Ken Appleby was outstanding all series long and finished stopping 43 of 46 shots he faced.
South Carolina’s top defensive pairing of Joey Leach and Bobby Shea really stuck out, doing a tremendous job of limiting Adirondack chances and contributing to the offense as well. Shea made an excellent decision to walk in and fire to tie the game and then once again to backhand the puck behind the Thunder goal on the game winner. Rookie Colton Saucerman also played some big minutes and handled the pressure well.
South Carolina moves on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second consecutive season. The Wheeling Nailers who also won game seven in overtime tonight, will be the opponent. Game one will be at the North Charleston Coliseum on Friday, May 13th at 7:05 PM.