There was a small part of Frankie Simonelli that was a little disappointed he got sent down from the American Hockey League.
Scoring the game-winning goal in the second overtime period was a nice consolation prize for the rookie defenseman.
Simonelli scored 7:21 into the second overtime period to lead the Stingrays past the Reading Royals, 2-1, Friday night before a crowd of 2,253 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays lead the best-of-seven series, 1-0, with Game 2 taking place Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays’ win ends the second-longest playoff losing streak in ECHL history at nine games.
With the Boston Bruins out of the Stanley Cup playoffs and a glut of defensemen at their AHL affiliate in Providence, Simonelli was sent down to the Stingrays late Thursday night.
Simonelli, who played 19 games with the Stingrays during the regular season, was just happy to still be skating during the playoffs.
“At this point in the season I’m just excited to be playing playoff hockey,” Simonelli said. “It doesn’t matter to me what team I’m playing for. I’m trying to the best I can no matter what team I’m on. I just try and show up at the rink every day and give them everything I’ve got.”
The Stingrays, who scored both of their goals on the power play, were awarded a power play when Royals defenseman and former Stingray Brett Flemming held forward Joe Devin behind the net. Moments later, defenseman Drew MacKenzie slid the puck across the ice to Simonelli for the one-time blast and game-winning marker at 7:21.
“The puck came up top to Drew and he put it right in my wheel house,” Simonelli said. “I think I was able to sneak under their goalie’s arm. It’s a great feeling to score an overtime goal.”
In the first overtime period, MacKenzie had been helped off the ice after suffering from severe cramps. His first shift back on the ice came on the Stingrays’ power play.
“I know he was in a lot of pain,” Simonelli said. “There’s not much you can do with cramps. Luckily enough he was able to come back and we had a power play.”
Devin opened the scoring on the power play 1:47 into the second period, redirecting a centering pass from forward Andrew Rowe over the blocker of Royals goaltender Connor Knapp. Forward Wayne Simpson added the second assist.
The Stingrays appeared to score a second goal only minutes later, but referee Kenny Anderson waved off Rob Ricci’s wrap-around attempt. The puck clearly crossed the line on replays.
The Royals responded late in the second period when defenseman Maxime Lamarche completed a 3-on-2 rush and beat Stingrays netminder Jeff Jakaits.
The Stingrays’ power play, which struggled during the regular season, converted on two of six chances.
“Special teams are going to be huge in the playoffs,” said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “When you get those opportunities, you need to take advantage of them and we did that tonight.”
The Royals outshot the Stingrays in the third period 12-5 and 12-11 in the first overtime, but failed to beat goalie Jeff Jakaitis.