South Carolina Stingrays goalie Mark Dekanich wasn’t perfect Saturday night against the Adirondack Thunder.
But he was close.
Dekanich stopped all 21 shots he faced and Austin Fyten got the game’s only goal as the South Carolina Stingrays defeated the Adirondack Thunder, 1-0, before a crowd of 3,291 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Kelly Cup semifinals at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The best-of-7 series is tied at 1-1 as the series shifts to Glens Falls, N.Y., for the next three games. Game 2 will is Tuesday night.
One night after all three goalies — Dekanich, Vitek Vanecek and Ken Appleby — gave up nine goals on 43 combined shots, the goaltenders for both teams were at the top of their games.
Appleby stopped 29 of 30 shots and Dekanich, after giving up two goals on three shots in the second period of Game 1, turned in his best performance of the postseason.
“Mark bailed us out big time, especially in the third period to even this series at 1-1,” Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery said.
“We needed a performance like this from Mark and our entire team defensively. Mark came up huge for us.”
While Dekanich wasn’t pressured throughout the game, the Thunder did generate several quality scoring chances, especially in the third period when the Thunder made a strong push.
“I think it’s always going to be a battle in the playoffs,” said Dekanich, who improved to 3-2 in the playoffs. “I knew we as a group had to respond today after Game 1 and myself personally as well. I tried to stay focused all night and be a rock for the boys.”
With scoring chances at a premium all game, it was only fitting that Fyten scored on a second-effort play in front of the net at the end of a power play.
Fyten took a wrist shot that bounced off the pads of Appleby as the puck squirted out to the top of the crease. Fyten was there for the rebound and backhanded a shot past Appleby for the score.
“Obviously both teams were at the top of their games defensively,” Fyten said. “You’ve got to bury your chances when you get them and go to those hard areas and hopefully bang one in there like I did tonight.”
Trailing by a goal in third period, the Thunder made a strong push, but Dekanich was there to stop all seven shots in the period.
“Mark was unbelievable tonight, that was a huge game for him and a huge win for us,” Fyten said.
After Friday night’s game that featured nine goals, Adirondack coach Cail MacLean said Saturday night’s one-goal game was more indicative of how he expects the rest of the series to go.
“Both teams played well and that’s the way I thought the series would go rather than the nine goals that were scored (Friday),” said MacLean, who is a former captain and head coach of the Stingrays. “I thought both teams were much better defensively and both goaltenders were strong. (Dekanich) was really strong in the end when I thought we put some pressure on him.”
Heading to New York with the series tied at 1-1 is much better than the alternative, Carbery said.
“I thought we hung on for dear life in the third period, so to go up to their place with the series tied is big for us,” Carbery said. “No question going up there tied 1-1 is gigantic instead of being in an 0-2 hole. But we’ve got to worry more about the way we play and getting back to the level we played at in the last series.”