NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays find themselves against the wall after dropping game 3 of the Kelly Cup Finals 6-4 to the Fort Wayne Komets. The Stingrays have been down 2-1 in a series already this postseason, and will need to replicate their feat of coming from behind and winning the final two games of a series on the road, as they did with the Florida Everblades, if their dreams of winning the Kelly Cup are to come to fruition.
The Stingrays had one of their highest shots on net outputs of the season and they converted four times, but Dylan Ferguson weathered the 49-shot storm to give the Komets the win. The Stingrays defense that bent but held in game two seemed to stymie the offensive chances of the Komets in game three. However, the Komets converted when they needed to and the Stingrays, who had multiple opportunities, couldn’t. Shepard stopped 18 of 24 shots on the night. The Stingrays went 2 for 8 on the power play, while the Komets went 2 for 4.
The first period scorefest opened with a power-play goal at 2:35 for Dan DeSalvo with assists from Cole Ully and Max Novak. The Komets got the equalizer at 7:01 when the Stingrays were on back-to-back penalty kills. Stephen Harper scored a power-play goal with helpers from A.J. Jenks and Brandon Hawkins.
The Komets took the lead less than two minutes later when Anthony Nellis scored at 8:40. Shawn Szydlowski and Alan Lyszczarczyk recorded assists on the play. DeSalvo notched his second power-play goal of the contest at 10:39 of the first period as Ully and Matt Weis got the assists. The Stingrays couldn’t take advantage of the tie game and gave up an even-strength goal at 12:30 of the opening frame to Szydlowski, with Oliver Galipeau and Anthony Petruzzelli earning helpers on the goal.
The second period saw immense pressure from the Stingrays, outshooting Fort Wayne 20-4 in the frame. But, it was the Komets who scored the lone goal of the period at 10:32, when Hawkins beat Shepard.
Slow starts to periods have been a habitual issue for the Stingrays this year and it reared its ugly head again in this game, as Matthew Boudens lit the lamp 30 seconds into the period, with helpers from Hawkins and Ferguson. Caleb Herbert scored for his third consecutive game just 92 seconds later, with a lone assist from captain Andrew Cherniwchan to bring the score back to 5-3.
Fort Wayne doubled up the lead as Szydlowski got a power-play goal at 7:38 with assists from Lyszczarczyk and Galipeau. With an extra attacker on the ice, Mark Cooper brought the score back to 6-4 at 18:29. Brett Supinski and DeSalvo were credited with the assists.
If the Stingrays are going to pull off a come from behind Kelly Cup win, it will depend on Hunter Shepard’s play in the next two games. Shepard has to rediscover his comfort zone and get back in his groove. Six goals allowed on 24-shot performance won’t be good enough as the Komets will look to close out the Stingrays on Friday night.
The Stingrays offense, which has been dormant at times this season, seems to be buzzing and doing the right things as of late. 49 shots weren’t enough to wear Ferguson down in game three, but continued pressure may give them the edge they need as the Stingrays will be looking to push the series to a decisive game 5 on Saturday evening.
More than 7,700 fans piled into the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum to watch the game, the single largest crowd in the ECHL this season.
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