Stingrays take 2-0 series lead over Kalamazoo

South Carolina Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery expected a much better effort from Kalamazoo after a three-goal victory in Game 1 of their Kelly Cup series Friday night.

While the Wings did play better, it didn’t seem to matter as the Stingrays dominated for large chunks of the game winning for the second time in as many nights on Kalamazoo’s home ice.

Brett Cameron scored two goals and Caleb Herbert added a goal and an assist to lead South Carolina past Kalamazoo, 5-2, in Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinals Saturday night at the Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo, Mich.

The Stingrays lead the best-of-7 series, 2-0, with Game 3 scheduled for Monday at the Wings Event Center beginning at 7 p.m. The first three games of the series will be played at Wings Event Center before returning to the North Charleston Coliseum for Game 4 on Thursday.

The Stingrays dominated the game’s opening period, outshooting the Wings, 19-4. Kalamazoo goalie Joel Martin did all he could to keep South Carolina off the scoreboard, but a beautiful passing play helped the Stingrays strike first.

Derek DeBlois stole the puck on the left wing and fed a pass across to Kelly Zajac. Zajac found a wide open Joe Devin on the back door, and the former Cornell University star easily scored to give the Stingrays a 1-0 lead at 12:53 of the first period.

“The guys are really moving the puck around the ice,” Carbery said. “We’ve got great chemistry on all three lines. The guys just seem to know where each other are on the ice.”

The Stingrays kept the pressure on in the second period, scoring twice to build a 3-0 advantage. Another pretty passing play resulted in the second goal of the game as Nick D’Agostino brought the puck in over the blue line and fed David Pacan. Pacan dished a pass to Herbert, who walked in on goal and slid the puck past Martin for his second goal of the playoffs at 3:45.

“David is a high-end facilitator of the puck,” Carbery said. “He’s got tremendous ice vision. He sees the play unfold and then puts the puck right where it needs to be. He’s fun to watch.”

Wade Epp would make it a 3-0 game with his first playoff goal on a shot from the point at 6:30 that deflected past Martin.

However, the Wings would respond with a pair of goals to make it a one-goal game, 3-2, going into the third period. Tanner Sorenson scored at 11:27 on a slap shot that beat Stingrays goalie Mark Dekanich under the blocker to make it 3-1, and Sacha Guimond scored on a backhand at 12:33 to make it 3-2.

“We expected Kalamazoo would come out in the second period and make a push and they did,” Carbery said. “You have to give them credit. A turnover, a soft play on the wall and they score two goals. We need to do a better job in those situations, but give Kalamazoo credit because they came after us pretty hard in the second period.”

The Stingrays would take control of the game again in the third period on back-to-back goals from Cameron. The forward’s first goal saw him outwait Martin and flip a backhanded shot over the goaltender at 3:03 to make it 4-2 South Carolina. Cameron’s second goal would come three minute later when he toe-dragged around a Wings defender and beat Martin from the slot with a wrist shot to regain a three-goal lead advantage for the Stingrays.

“Just a couple of great individual plays on Brett’s part,” Carbery said. “He was able to finish with a couple of high-end skill plays.”

Dekanich picked up his second win of the series, stopping 20 of 22 shots.