It's called playoff hockey for a reason.
The South Carolina Stingrays obviously didn't get the memo that the Kelly Cup playoffs started this weekend.
After a lackluster performance, the Stingrays appeared to still be stuck in the regular season.
Wheeling scored twice in the opening period and rookie goalie Mike Condon stopped all 23 shots he faced to lead the Nailers past the Stingrays, 3-0, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference best-of-seven quarterfinal series Friday night before a crowd of 1,871 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Game 2 will be played Saturday beginning at 7:05 p.m. at the Coliseum.
From the drop of the puck, the Nailers outplayed, outhustled and outworked the Stingrays for 60 minutes.
"They were ready to go and we were not," said South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery. "To me, it was a pretty normal playoff game and we were not very good on our end. We were a little bit (like a) deer in the headlights. We had some guys that were ready to go, but they were really nervous. We kind of fought the puck tonight. I think that was across the board."
The Nailers, a team notorious for their physical play, outhit the Stingrays all game.
"They've got some big boys over there, and a big part of their game plan is to be physical and finish off their checks," Carbery said. "I thought we were a tentative. We need a lot more guys to play playoff hockey. I was surprised that even some of our older guys looked surprised at the intensity level of the game."
The Stingrays managed to generate just a few quality scoring chances. But any scoring the Stingrays did muster was answered by Condon, who was rarely challenged until the third period.
"We've got to be harder on the puck if we want to score in the playoffs," Carbery said. "This time of year you've got to be hard on the puck and get to those areas where you can score. It's not easy to score this time of year."
Wheeling set the tone just two minutes into the game when Chaz Johnson scored to give the Nailers a 1-0 lead.
The Nailers extended their advantage to 2-0 on Christiaan Minella's goal with less than four minutes left in the opening period.
The Stingrays got a couple of chances to start the third period, but a bad bounce and a Condon save put to rest any hopes for a comeback.
Carbery said the Stingrays will have to put Game 1 behind them as quickly as possible.
"We need to learn from the mistakes we made tonight and come out with more of a sense of urgency (Saturday) in Game 2," Carbery said. "We'll make some lineup changes, but it's playoff hockey and we need to play like it's the playoffs."
Wheeling 2 0 1 - 3
Stingrays 0 0 0 - 0
First Period: 1. W, Johnson 1 (Cianfrini), 1:46. 2. W, Minella 1 (MacKay, Gill), 16:32. Penalties: McGrath W (fighting - major), 3:49; Spinell SC (fighting - major), 3:49; Bakker W (slashing ), 4:09; Fernandez W (slashing ), 13:54; Larson SC (slashing ), 13:54; Spinell SC (elbowing), 13:54; Fernandez W (hooking), 16:48.
Second Period: No goals. Penalties: Gill, W (high sticking), 4:24.
Third Period: 3. W, Ratchuk 1 (Bakker, Merth), 9:32. Penalties: Spinell, SC (slashing ), 5:58; Johnson, W (interference), 10:52; Quick, SC (interference), 11:26; Johnson, W (game misconduct, mouthgaurd violation), 17:04; Areshenko W (tripping), 17:24; Merth, W (slashing ), 17:34; Mitchell, SC (spearing attempt, double), 17:34.
Wheeling Nailers Mike Ratchuk and Stingrays Patrick Gaul fight for the puck during their first game in the 2014 Kelly Cup Playoffs Friday April 18, 2014. Grace Beahm/Staff×
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