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Swamp Rabbits skate past Rays in Game 1

Rays fall to Swamp Rabbits

The Greenville Swamp Rabbits got ahead early and held off the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 1 of the teams’ opening round Kelly Cup Playoffs series by a score of 6-3 on Thursday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Stingrays forwards Patrick Gaul, Kelly Zajac and Rob Flick each scored goals in the loss, while defenseman Wade Epp picked up two assists. The Swamp Rabbits now have a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Greenville scored two early goals in the first period with Brandon Alderson at picking up the opening goal at 3:39 and Tyler Brown making it 2-0 at 5:24.

Later in the frame, Gaul got the Rays on the board with a tally at 16:43 from Kevin Dufour and Epp. Dufour rushed the puck into the offensive zone for South Carolina before dropping it back to Gaul, who was open in the slot. Gaul beat Greenville netminder Jeff Malcolm with a wrist shot to make it a 2-1 game.

But the Swamp Rabbits scored three straight goals at the outset of the middle period to take a commanding 5-1 lead, an advantage that the Stingrays were unable to overcome. Ahti Oksanen scored at 2:48 before Alderson got his second of the game at 4:30 and Allen McPherson added the team’s fifth goal of the night at 5:44.

South Carolina got closer in the back-half of the second with two goals of their own and trailed 5-3 at the second intermission.

First, Zajac converted on a breakaway after being set free with a pass by Joe Devin. Zajac used a back-hand shot to get the puck by Malcolm at 14:23 of the second.

Then Flick got South Carolina within two by deflecting a shot by Andrew Cherniwchan up into the air that landed behind Malcolm in the net. Forward Domenic Monardo earned the second assist on the team’s third goal of the contest.

The Rays were unable to get any closer in the third period, with the only goal of the frame being scored by McPherson at 13:15 for his second strike of the game.

Parker Milner made a total of 19 saves for South Carolina, while Malcolm turned aside 34 shots to earn the win for Greenville. The Stingrays outshot the Swamp Rabbits 37-25 in the game.

South Carolina came up empty on the power play, finishing 0-for-4 in the game, while Greenville converted on their only opportunity with the man-advantage in the second period.

The two teams meet again for Game 2 in Greenville on Friday night at 7 p.m. The Stingrays will be back at home for Games 3 and 4 this week on Monday and Tuesday night at the North Charleston Coliseum. Both home games are scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m.

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