Rays Clinch Playoff Spot with 2-0 Win at Atlanta

Mar 26, 2016

For the 22nd time in the club's 23 season in the Lowcountry, the South Carolina Stingrays are playoff bound. South Carolina (39-18-6-3) punched its ticket to the 2016 Kelly Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 win over the Atlanta Gladiators (31-28-5-2) Saturday evening at the Infinite Energy Arena. Kelly Zajac scored the game-winning goal on the power play 2:49 into the third period and Vitek Vanecek earned his third shutout of the season with 20 saves.

Both goaltenders stole the show Saturday night. Atlanta's Matt Ginn came up with several impressive saves, denying Austin Fyten three different times from point-blank range. He also stopped Jared Staal's breakaway attempt late in the first period. South Carolina's Vanecek was not as busy early, but faced several quality chances in the first period. He robbed Brock Higgs bid from the slot with his right pad to keep the game scoreless. 

After 40 minutes of action brought no goals, the two teams took the ice in the third period looking for the icebreaker. That came courtesy of Zajac's fifth goal of the season early in the frame on the man-advantage. Defenseman Spencer Humphries took the puck in the high slot and dished a pass to his South Carolina teammate Zajac in the right circle. Zajac let a perfect one-time shot go that beat Ginn over the catching glove to make it 1-0 South Carolina.

Atlanta would push late, but Vanecek and the Stingrays stood tall. The Stingrays held Atlanta to 0-for-5 on the power play and Vanecek stopped 10 Atlanta shots in the third period to keep the home team off the scoreboard. 

David Pacan would seal the victory for the Stingrays with his 19th goal of the season into the empty net at 19:48 with assists from Wade Epp and Joey Leach. Pacan's shot from center hit an Atlanta stick but redirected into the goal to make it 2-0. 

The Stingrays outshot the Gladiators 34-20 in the victory. 

The victory was the Stingrays 20th road win of the season and officially clinched South Carolina a playoff berth. Just a season removed from advancing to Game 7 of the Kelly Cup Finals, the Stingrays will once again be one of the 16 teams that participate in the ECHL's post-season beginning in mid-April. Playoff ticket information will be announced soon, while playoff opponents, dates and times are to be determined in the coming weeks. Further information will be posted on StingraysHockey.com when it is available. 

Atlanta and South Carolina meet Tuesday night in South Carolina to finish the season series. That evening is Ladies Night, featuring a Stingrays Happy Hour from 6-8 p.m. with $2 beers. Hot dogs are also $2 all-night long. Women gain complimentary admission at the North Charleston Coliseum Box Office while guys score 2-for-1 ticket deals. For more information, call the Stingrays at 843-744-2248.

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