Vanecek's 33-Saves Leads Rays to 3-0 Win in Game 1May 13, 2016
In his first start since Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, South Carolina goaltender Vitek Vanecek rose to the occasion. The rookie netminder stopped all 33 shots he faced to lead the Stingrays (9-3-1) to a 3-0 win over the Wheeling Nailers (8-6-0) in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night. The victory was Vanecek's first professional playoff shutout, and moved South Carolina to a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 tomorrow night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays got off to a quick start Friday. Forward Austin Fyten scored a shorthanded goal less than five minutes into the game to give the Stingrays a 1-0 lead.
At 4:54, South Carolina's David Pacan moved the puck to Fyten up ice. He rushed in over the blue line and snapped a shot past Wheeling goaltender Brian Foster's catching glove to make it 1-0.
The Stingrays would double the lead at 15:31 of the opening period. Forward Jared Staal scored his first goal of the playoff on a scramble in front of the goal. Fyten threw the puck from the corner towards the Wheeling net. A battle ensued, and Staal was able to find the puck in the slot. His first shot was denied by Foster, but Staal popped the rebound up, and over, the right pad of Foster to make it 2-0 South Carolina. Stephan Vigier also assisted on the goal.
Bobby Shea would add to South Carolina's lead with his first goal of the postseason only 49 seconds into the second period. With the each team playing a skater short, Shea got lost in coverage when he skated behind the net. Joe Devin made a perfect pass to Shea on the left wing, and the defenseman beat Foster with a quick shot over the right shoulder to make it 3-0 South Carolina.
From that point on, the goaltenders took over the game. Vanecek was solid, limiting rebounds and making several key saves on deflections during Wheeling's five power play attempts. On the other end, Foster kept his team in the game with timely saves, including denying South Carolina's David Pacan on a shorthanded breakaway. However, South Carolina's defense, and 12 saves from Vanecek in the third period held Wheeling off the scoreboard.
Wheeling outshot the Stingrays 33-29 on Friday. Both teams failed to convert on the power play as Wheeling was 0-for-5 and South Carolina was 0-for-2.
South Carolina is now 6-1-0 on home ice in the playoffs.The two teams meet for Game 2 tomorrow night at the North Charleston Coliseum. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. Tickets start at just $13 at the Coliseum Box Office. Tickets are also available online at Ticketmaster.com.