After Wednesday night’s dramatic come-from-behind victory in Game 7 against the Reading Royals, South Carolina Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery didn’t know what to expect from his players Friday night in Game 1 against the Florida Everblades.
What Carbery got was more of the same.
Marcus Perrier scored two goals and Joe Devin, Rob Bellamy and Wayne Simpson each added a goal and an assist to lead South Carolina past Florida, 6-3, in Game 1 of their Kelly Cup East Division finals series at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.
The Stingrays grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series heading into Game 2 Saturday night at Germain Arena.
After dispatching the Orlando Solar Bears on Monday night in their opening-round series, the Everblades had four days to prepare for the Stingrays. The Stingrays, meanwhile, had only a couple of hours to celebrate their Game 7 victory over Reading before boarding a bus for the nine-hour trip to Estero, Fla.
Carbery was concerned about the quick turnover for his fatigued unit.
“It was a very physical, emotional series against Reading, so I was hoping we’d be able to keep the momentum going from Game 7,” Carbery said. “Florida came out and pressured us early and Jeff Jakaitis made a couple of huge saves to help us weather that early storm, and then we were able to capitalize on a couple of chances and get an early lead. Florida is such an explosive team offensively that it’s very important to play with a lead against them.”
Stingrays defenseman Drew MacKenzie opened the scoring 9:33 into the first period, lifting a shot over Everblades goalie Daniel Altshuller following a skirmish on top of the goal crease. Altshuller, a rookie, was starting for the injured Alan York, who was hurt during the series with Orlando. York played for the Stingrays last season.
It was a wild second period as the two teams combined for six goals. Perrier had both of his goals in the second period, including one with just 75 seconds left in the period.
Stingrays forward Rob Bellamy gave the Stingrays a 2-0 lead just 45 seconds into the second, ripping a shot over the glove of Altshuller from forward Sean Dolan.
The Everblades jumped on the scoreboard at 6:35 as forward Matt Marquardt settled a bouncing puck to beat Jakaitis over the glove.
Two minutes later, Perrier reclaimed a two-goal lead for the Stingrays, rifling in his second goal of the postseason with help from Rowe and forward Derek DeBlois.
Simpson capitalized on the power play moments later to take a 4-1 advantage at the 9:39 mark from forward Joe Devin and defenseman Michal Cajkovsky.
Following the faceoff, Everblades forward Mitch Wahl knocked in a rebound to shift the momentum at 9:51 and pull the Everblades to within 4-2.
But Perrier answered with his second goal of the game at 18:45, beating Altshuller from the left-wing point. Forwards Caleb Herbert and Patrick Gaul chipped in assists.
“It was a back-and-forth second period,” Carbery said. “It seemed like we had all the momentum and then Florida would answer. Marcus’ goal just before the end of the period was huge. You could tell it kind of deflated Florida a little bit and gave us a three-goal lead going into the third period.”
Looking for a spark, the Everblades pressured the Stingrays in the third period, pulling Altshuller for goalie Brad Barone, who started the playoffs with the Stingrays. Adam Brace scored at the 11:36 mark to pull the Everblades to within 5-3.
The Stingrays sealed the victory with 28 seconds to play as Devin hit the empty net for his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs from Bellamy.
“I thought we played solid defensively over the last five minutes,” Carbery said. “We’ve got to ready to face a very angry Florida team in Game 2. They’re going to come out with a ton of energy and will be looking for some revenge.”