For long stretches Tuesday night, the South Carolina Stingrays dominated the Allen Americans. The Stingrays’ forecheck created turnover after turnover and scoring chance after scoring chance.
It didn’t matter on the scoreboard.
Gary Steffes scored two goals and Riley Gill made 22 saves to lead Allen past South Carolina, 5-2, in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals Tuesday night before a crowd of 3,804 at the Allen Event Center in Allen, Texas.
The series is tied, 1-1, heading into Game 3 Wednesday night beginning at 8:05 p.m. at the Allen Event Center. The best-of-seven series will shift to the Lowcountry for three games beginning Sunday night at the North Charleston Coliseum for Game 4.
“We had the majority of the puck possession inside the offensive zone and it didn’t do us any good because we were not ready to execute tonight,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “We were sloppy with the puck, we didn’t shoot it enough and we missed the net way too many times during the first two periods. We were just not ready to do the things that are needed to be done to win a game in the Kelly Cup finals. We’ve been battling these demons throughout the playoffs.”
Despite giving up five goals, the Stingrays defense was solid, giving up only a handful of meaningful scoring chances and just 21 shots. The problem was that any mistake the Stingrays made ended up in the back of their net.
“When they got an opportunity, they scored,” Carbery said. “We’d have a little breakdown either mentally or physically and they’d take advantage of that. They are an opportunistic team and they can score. That’s no secret. They’ve proven that all season. They were the highest-scoring team in the league during the regular season. If you make a mistake against these guys chances the puck is going to end up in the back of the net. I thought our defense was OK, but it could be better.”
South Carolina rookie goalie Clay Witt replaced Jeff Jakaitis to start the third period after the veteran goalie gave up three goals on just 13 shots through the first 40 minutes of the game. Witt gave up two goals on eight shots.
“Jeff has played a ton of minutes for us during the playoffs and we needed him to be ready for Game 3 (Wednesday),” Cabery said. “None of the goals were his fault. I was just trying to get him some rest and give our guys a little bit of a spark.”
The Stingrays dominated the offensive chances in the first period and outshot the Americans 8-7, but Americans forward Dyson Stevenson capitalized on a bad bounce off the glass to lift in his second goal of the playoffs over the pad of Jakaitis at the 6:05 mark.
In the second period, the Americas slipped the puck past Jakaitis twice to take a 3-0 lead into the intermission behind two goals from Steffes.
The Stingrays jumped on the scoreboard less than two minutes into the third period on Scott Ford’s blasted from the blue line that beat Americans goaltender Riley Gill.
But Allen forward Spence Asuchak answered for the Americans two minutes later to push the advantage back to 4-1.
Sean Dolan gave the Stingrays a little bit of life with his goal at the 9:40 mark of the final period. Allen defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser wrapped up the game scoring with an unofficial empty-net goal at 19:46, finding the vacant goal with Witt heading to the bench for the extra skater.
In Game 3, the Stingrays will have the advantage of being the designated “home team” during the game. As a result, the Stingrays will be able to make the final change before the drop of the puck. The Stingrays have tied an ECHL record with nine postseason road wins during the Kelly Cup playoffs.
“It’s a little bit of a big deal because we can get the match-ups we want because we’ve got the last change,” Carbery said. “It’s kind of the game within the game, but we’ve still got to go out and execute better. Having the last change isn’t going to help with that. I’m not sure what we thought after winning Game 1. No one is going to lay down in the Kelly Cup finals. This isn’t going to be easy.”