KALAMAZOO, MI- The usual suspects for the Stingrays stepped up to lead South Carolina to a dominating 4-1 win in Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Quarterfinals against Kalamazoo.
The Wings did exactly what they had to do by scoring the first goal of the game on the powerplay. Kalamazoo had finished the season going 17-2-1 when scoring the first goal down the stretch. Regular season points leader Ludwig Blomstrand took advantage of a scramble on an early powerplay to give the Wings a 1-0 lead at the 9:25 mark of the first period.
South Carolina had seen the tape and refused to become another statistic. Just 1:31 after the Kalamazoo goal, Derek DeBlois forced a turnover and found Kelly Zajac for a one-timer past Joel Martin to tie the game at one.
By the Second period, the Stingrays had settled in to their game. They did the little things and won the puck battles. Caleb Herbert, David Pacan and Austin Fyten picked up right where they left off in the regular season setting up Herbert for a tip in at 10:16 of the second. DeBlois would score just under a minute later on another pretty passing play from Zajac and Joe Devin.
Austin Fyten continued the offensive surge for South Carolina five minutes in the third. The Wings pushed harder in the third, thanks to a couple of powerplay opportunities but Mark Dekanich pushed aside all 11 shots he faced in the frame and 22 of 23 overall in the 4-1 win. Joel Martin was also solid, making 36 saves on 40 shots.
Zajac, DeBlois, Herbert and Fyten each recorded a goal and an assist. All of the Stingrays top six forwards recorded at least a point.
South Carolina’s league leading penalty kill as it has done all year was solid once again, killing 4-of-5 Kalamazoo opportunities.
With the victory, the Stingrays franchise got its 100th playoff win, becoming the first team in ECHL history with 100 playoff wins.
The series continues tonight at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo at 7:00 p.m ET.