Dan DeSalvo netted a beautiful backhander to lift the South Carolina Stingrays (1-0) over the Florida Everblades (0-1) in a 3-2 overtime win to kick off the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs Monday night at the Carolina Ice Palace.
Forward Matthew Weis was the shining light offensively on the night for the Stingrays with two goals while goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 28 shots in an intense game one performance between the pipes for South Carolina.
Florida’s Levko Koper opened the scoring at 5:22 of the contest, netting his 1st goal of the postseason on a shot that deflected off of the forward’s shoulder.
SC would respond shortly after during a 4-on-3 man advantage when Weis tied the game at 1-1 with his first goal of the night. Weis’s blast was assisted by DeSalvo and Cole Ully at 10:02 of the first.
A scoreless second period saw nothing but physicality and penalties exchanged between both clubs.
The Everblades’ Michael Neville wasted no time in the third, tipping a shot over the shoulder of Shepard to regain Florida’s lead 2-1 just 22 seconds into the period.
SC was tenacious in the third frame, continuing to pressure Florida netminder Jake Hildebrand. Hildebrand finally let one by him at 11:28 when Weis buried his second of the game with help from forward Caleb Herbert.
Though the two teams continued trading opportunities, three periods would not be enough and sudden death overtime came as a result. DeSalvo wasted little time, and was the hero 3:25 into the extra session with a backhand shot over the near-side shoulder of Hildebrand to take the first game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
SC was the only team to strike on the man-advantage, going 1-for-6 in their power play opportunities while the Blades went 0-for-4. The Rays led the shots-on-goal 34-30 in the game. Hildebrand turned aside 31 shots in a losing effort for Florida.
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