The Fort Wayne Komets took Game 1 of the 2021 Kelly Cup Finals Friday night at the Carolina Ice Palace, defeating the South Carolina Stingray by a final score of 7-2 behind a hat trick by forward Brandon Hawkins and 25 saves from goaltender Dylan Ferguson.
With the victory, Fort Wayne has a 1-0 lead in the best-of-5 Finals series. Game 2 of the Kelly Cup Finals will also take place in North Charleston on Sunday evening at 6:05 p.m.
Fort Wayne got out to an early lead and led 2-0 after the first 20 with back-to-back goals in less than a minute from Marcus McIvor at 10:26 and Brandon Hawkins at 11:19.
The Komets went up 3-0 early in the second when Oliver Cooper scored an unassisted shorthanded goal at 3:14.
South Carolina got one back on a shot by Caleb Herbert that went off the left post and in behind Ferguson during a power play chance at 11:49. Herbert’s first of the postseason came with an assist by Matthew Weis and cut the Fort Wayne lead to 3-1.
But Hawkins responded with his second of the night less than three minutes later on a one-timer at 14:29 to extend the Komets advantage back to three goals at 4-1.
In the final seconds of the period, Anthony Nellis added to the Fort Wayne lead, making it 5-1 before the second intermission at 19:48.
Hawkins completed the hat trick at 4:42 of the third with another tally to make it 6-1 and Komets’ captain A.J. Jenks found the back of the net at 9:16 with Fort Wayne’s seventh goal of the game.
The seven goals against tied for the most that South Carolina has allowed in a game during the 2020-21 season.
During a power play late in the game that saw Fort Wayne’s Mathieu Brodeur assessed a high-sticking minor, Max Gottlieb skated end to end and beat Ferguson to score his first goal of the playoffs at 13:35. Herbert and goaltender Jake Kupsky assisted on the strike, which stood up as the final score of the game.
SC netminder Hunter Shepard got the start and suffered the loss, stopping 22 shots before he was replaced by Kupsky with 10:44 remaining in the third period. Kupsky stopped three shots in relief.
Both Stingrays goals came on the man-advantage as the home team finished 2-for-8 on the power play. Fort Wayne ended at 1-for-4 and had a 32-27 edge in shots on goal in the contest.
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