Wheeling, WV- South Carolina got a gem from Vitek Vanecek but for the second straight game, the Stingrays coughed up a third period lead. South Carolina couldn’t find a response and fell 2-1 to the Wheeling Nailers and now trail 2-1 in the series.
Both teams appeared to have recovered from their respective game seven hangovers after four days of rest. The intensity that was mostly lacking in the first two games was there from the get go tonight. Each team had chances but Franky Palazzese and Vitek Vanecek kept the game scoreless.
Wheeling mounted a push in the second thanks to an early powerplay. They couldn’t capitalize but momentum stuck with them. The Nailers carried the play for most of the second period until they allowed Austin Fyten to sit all alone in front of Palazzese. Caleb Herbert found Fyten from behind the net and before Palazzese realized what happened, the puck had already hit the net under the bar and bounced out.
The goal tilted the ice toward South Carolina but they finished the period being outshot 12-7.
Just as they were in Game Two, Wheeling was dominant in the third period. A miscommunication between Bobby Shea and David Pacan allowed the Nailers to break in the offensive zone. A tic-tac-toe passing play stretched the South Carolina defense enough to give Game Two hero, Jarret Burton, room to walk right to the net and squeak his own rebound home to tie the score.
The Nailers defense did a good job of limiting any time and space of the Stingrays all night but particularly so after the tying goal. South Carolina’s final credited shot on Palazzese came with just over seven minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Derek Army fired an innocent looking shot from the point that eluded Vanecek to put Wheeling up 2-1 at the 13:34 mark of the third. Vanecek was completely eaten up by the shot that may have been deflected by Colton Saucerman’s stick. It was a rare blemish on a good night overall for the South Carolina goalie.
The Nailers defense did an excellent job of holding the team’s first lead of the series. Though the Stingrays were able to get in the offensive zone they were not afforded much else. Shots were blocked and the Nailers forced the offense to turn the puck over. South Carolina’s offense was out of sync and time ran out on the comeback attempt.
Mistakes by Bobby Shea and Vitek Vanecek proved costly for the Stingrays. “It’s a fine line in the playoffs. You make a couple mistakes and they can end up in the back of your net and that’s what we did tonight in the third period” said South Carolina Coach Spencer Carbery.
Wheeling coach Jeff Christian wasn’t completely satisfied with how his team played “I don’t think it was our best game tonight, they’re a tough team. We were kind of lucky to come out on top tonight” said Christian.
Tonight was the third game in a row that Austin Fyten has opened the scoring for the game. With the goal, Fyten has points in seven consecutive games. David Pacan extended his point scoring streak to six games with an assist on the goal.
South Carolina’s Powerplay has gone 0/10 so far in this series. The unit failed to score on two opportunities tonight including an extended four on three opportunity in the first period.
South Carolina was one of the best road teams in the regular season with 23 wins. The road hasn’t been too kind to the Stingrays in the playoffs as they are now 3-4.
The series remains in Wheeling for the next two games. Game Four is on Friday, May 20th at 7:35 pm and Game Five is on Saturday, May 21st at 7:35 pm.