Stingrays headed to playoffs after Friday comeback win
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays (39-28-3-1) pulled off a three-goal comeback in the third period to defeat the Atlanta Gladiators (26-37-6-2) 3-2 and clinch a spot in the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs Friday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Rookie forward Kevin Dufour scored the game-winner with just over five minutes remaining in the game, while Max Nicastro and Scott Tanski also added tallies in the third frame to help the Stingrays come from behind to defeat Atlanta for the ninth time this season.
South Carolina will be either to No. 3 or 4 seed in the South Division, with the final spot to be determined Saturday night. The Stingrays control their own destiny and can solidify their third place spot with a win in the final game of the regular season.
Goaltender Parker Milner earned his 26th victory of the season by making 26 saves for the Rays.
Neither team was able to score in the opening period, with both sides registering 11 shots on net in the first 20 minutes.
The Gladiators struck twice in the middle frame to open up a 2-0 lead on goals by Trevor Mingoia at 1:21 and Thomas Frazee at 8:43.
After South Carolina was unable to score on a five-minute power play after a major penalty to Atlanta’s Josh Atkinson for charging, the Stingrays came to life when Nicastro snuck down low in the offensive zone and hit the back of the net with a one-timer on a pass by Joe Devin.
Nicastro’s fifth goal of the year cut the deficit to 2-1. The second assist on the goal came from defenseman Joey Leach.
South Carolina tied the game at 12:00 of the third when Tanski redirected a shot by Marcus Perrier to even the score. Tanski’s second goal in as many games and 12th of the year was also assisted by forward John Parker.
Minutes later Dufour put the Stingrays in front for the first time and the team never looked back. Forward Andrew Cherniwchan lofted the puck into the air from South Carolina’s end of the ice and Dufour turned on the speed to catch up to the biscuit. A move from forehand to backhand gave the rookie space to slip the puck into the net and give the Rays a 3-2 advantage.
Atlanta goaltender Dan Vladar made 29 saves before leaving the game with an injury. He was replaced by Matt Ginn, who made six stops but took the loss for the Glads.
Both teams were scoreless on the man-advantage for the second straight game, each finishing 0-for-3 on the night. South Carolina had the edge in shots on goal, 38-28.
The Stingrays complete their regular season schedule Saturday night when they battle the Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:05 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Single-game tickets are on sale now at the North Charleston Coliseum Box Office and ticketmaster.com. Playoff ticket information will be announced in the coming days. Stay tuned to stingrayshockey.com and follow the Rays on social media for more information.
Ticket packages and Groups of 10 or more are on sale now featuring discounted pricing and great benefits. The first 2,000 fans through the doors at Saturday’s game vs. Cincinnati receive a free Stingrays beach ball! For more information or to place an order call the Stingrays front office at 843-744-2248 or stop by 3300 W. Montague Ave. Suite A-200 during business hours.
Photo Credit: Vin Duffy