Rays Finish Sweep of Gladiators, Clinch Playoff Spot
DULUTH, Ga. - For the second straight night, a last-minute goal gave the South Carolina Stingrays (35-31-5-1) a victory over the Atlanta Gladiators (31-30-7-3). This time, it was Mason Mitchell who broke a late tie to give SC a 3-2 win that allowed them to clinch third place in the ECHL's South Division standings Sunday night at the Infinite Energy Arena.
The Stingrays will play the Orlando Solar Bears in the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs presented by SmileDirectClub, beginning at the Amway Center on Wednesday, April 10.
Mitchell earned the first star with an assist in addition to the game-winner, while forward Tad Kozun also had a goal and an assist. Goaltender Parker Milner earned the win with 35 saves in the contest.
Kozun put the Rays in front first, scoring his 18th goal of the season from Cam Askew and Joey Leach on the power play at 15:46 to make it 1-0.
Atlanta evened things up at 1-1 in the second when Nolan LaPorte deflected a shot past Milner at 8:36.
The game stayed tied until forward Andrew Cherniwchan put South Carolina back in front at 9:54 of the third period with his 29th goal of the year from Mitchell.
The Gladiators gave the Rays a scare in the final minute when Brett McKenzie scored to make it 2-2 at 19:08 of the third.
But on the ensuing face-off, Kozun won the puck directly to Leach, who found Mitchell open on the left wing. The attacker moved into the offensive end and fired a wrist shot over the right shoulder of goaltender Sean Bonar just seven seconds after McKenzie's goal to re-take the lead for South Carolina at 3-2.
The Stingrays closed out the final 45 seconds and secured their 25th trip to the playoffs in their 26-year history.
Bonar took the loss despite making 29 saves in the contest. SC had the lone power play goal of the night and finished 1-for-3 on the man-advantage, while the Gladiators were 0-for-2. The Glads also outshot SC 37-32 in the game.
A full schedule of the first round series against Orlando will be available online at StingraysHockey.com.
Sign up for our 'Pay For Play' package now and get tickets to every home game in North Charleston throughout the postseason! The Rays will host Game 3 against the Solar Bears on Wednesday, April 17 at 7:05 p.m.
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South Carolina Stingrays forward Andrew Cherniwchan
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