NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays find themselves one win away from a Kelly Cup Finals appearance after scoring three goals against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the final 10:32 of game three of the Eastern Conference Finals. Dan DeSalvo scored with 20 seconds remaining in regulation to complete the three-goal, third period comeback win. The Stingrays have made several third period comebacks during the course of the 2020-21 season. None more dramatic or more important than this effort in a pivotal game three leaving the Stingrays in control 2-games-to-1 in the five-game series. The win sends the Stingrays back to the Carolina Ice Palace for game four on Monday and, if needed, a game five on Wednesday.
The Swamp Rabbits and Stingrays skated to a 0-0 stalemate after the end of the first period. Greenville outshot the Stingrays 16-10 in the opening frame and South Carolina failed to convert on the only power-play opportunity of the first period. The second period saw Greenville getting on the board 104 seconds into the period, on a goal by Liam Pecararo assisted by Luke Martin.
Minutes later, the Swamp Rabbits went ahead by two when Max Zimmer got his first goal of the playoffs, off of assists by Greg Meireles and Matt Bradley.
The Stingrays failed to convert on two power-play opportunities and were outshot by Greenville 12-9 in the middle frame.
The third period saw the Stingrays kill off a penalty to start the period and the game was back and forth for the first half of the third period. The Stingrays capitalized on their fourth power play as Justin Florek redirected a shot from Max Novak, who fired in a shot from the blue line at 9:28 of the period. Tyler Nanne picked up the second assist on the play.
Cole Ully tied up the game at the 16:43 mark. Zach Malatesta fed Novak a pass and he ripped it from between the tops of the circles where Ully was able to put in the rebound.
Then with 20 seconds left in regulation, Malatesta set Mark Cooper up for a redirect on goal that found its way into the net after going off of DeSalvo’s neck for the game-winning tally.
“We battled hard. Not sure we deserved that game but great teams find a way to win and that’s what we did tonight,” said DeSalvo. “There’s a lot of belief in the room. We never feel like we are down. When we are down we find a way to grind and do whatever it takes to find out way back into games…… Just proud of our guys tonight.”
When asked about his game-winning goal DeSalvo said,
“A little bit lucky, I’m not sure I saw anything to be honest. Just won the faceoff, went to the net. Saw the puck was coming at my head a little bit. Coop (Mark Cooper) kind of tipped it off, I turned my head, it went off my neck and in….. Lucky bounce but we will take it.”
“It went off my neck and in”
Dan Desalvo’s thoughts on the comeback Game 3 win! pic.twitter.com/iBefbjzS4m
— SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) June 20, 2021
Hunter Shepard picked up the win stopping 32 of 34 shots, while Ryan Bednar stopped 31 of 34 in the losing effort. Novak continues to be a difference-maker for the Stingrays. He was the only skater on the ice for all three of the Stingrays’ goals, picking up two assists in the process.
Being one win away from a finals appearance is a remarkable turnaround for a team that clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference on the next to last day of the regular season. This was a team that languished in sixth and fifth place for much of March, April, and May after a 10-game winless streak in February derailed a hot start to the season.
Something changed in late May. The Stingrays went on a six-game winning streak to close out the season to get themselves a first-round match up with the Brabham Cup-winning Florida Everblades. After knocking off the regular season champions in five games, the Stingrays split the first two games with the Swamp Rabbits with each team winning their opening home games in the Conference Finals.
The Stingrays can clinch the series on Monday and a decisive game five would be played Wednesday if needed. Both games will be played at the Stingrays’ practice facility, the Carolina Ice Palace as the North Charleston Coliseum is booked filming the HBO series “The Righteous Gemstones.”
Game four will have tickets available for full season ticket holders with information not released yet for game five ticket sales.
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