DULUTH, GA – The Stingrays were unable to clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup Playoffs tonight after a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Atlanta Gladiators.
Goaltending was the story of the first period as Vitek Vanecek and Matt Ginn battled to a scoreless tie after one. The Gladiators went 0-for-2 on the powerplay while the Rays went 0-for-1 on their lone opportunity. The best scoring chance came when Vitek Vanecek stoned Atlanta’s Eric Neiley on a breakaway chance.
The pace of the game seemed to hit a wall early in the second. The two teams were able to muster just three shots between them through seven minutes. Atlanta gained some momentum and with the help of a fortunate bounce took a 1-0 lead from Eric Neiley on his sixth goal of the season at the 12:22 mark. Brett Cameron would respond with his 20th goal of the season off a feed from Stephan Vigier at the 16:16 mark. The period finished tied at 1-1.
The Glads pushed the pace in the final frame of regulation. Vitek Vanecek had an answer for every opportunity early on. After back and fourth action, the Rays would go on the powerplay at 13:07 on a hooking call against Kevin Albers. Austin Fyten fired a laser under the bar for his sixth goal of the season to give South Carolina a 2-1 lead on the ensuing powerplay. The lead would not last long as Derek Nesbitt would buy a loose puck in the paint just 44 seconds later to tie the game at 2.
The game would be settled by a breakaway goal in overtime by Atlanta’s Tyler Murovich, his 18th goal of the season. The Glads improve to 31-27-5-2 with 69 points while South Carolina falls to 38-18-6-3 with 85 points. Vitek Vanecek has not lost in regulation since January 23rd.
With Mark Dekanich Recalled to AHL Hershey, tonight’s backup for South Carolina was James Kruger. The Rays signed James “Jimmy” Kruger of Dartmouth College on an amateur tryout to serve as backup until Dekanich returns.
Coach Spencer Carbery provided some insight on what happens when a call up is made at this point in the season. He pointed out its not about just going out there trying to find the best player available.
“It’s more about trying to find who is able to come down (to South Carolina). Who has their gear, whose agent is telling them not to go, who is on spring break or done with school,” Carbery said. Kruger posted a record of 20-16-5 with a .909 save percentage in his collegiate career with Dartmouth.
Forward Caleb Herbert was also returned from Hershey but did not join for tonight’s game.
South Carolina and Atlanta will face each other again in Duluth on Saturday night at 7:05 pm. South Carolina is now 6-3-1-0 against the Gladiators this season.