By John Devlin
Special to The State
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Peter Tsimikalis (pictured) scored two unassisted goals late in the third period to lift the Inferno to a do-or-die 5-3 win against the South Carolina Stingrays at the Carolina Coliseum on Friday night.
The verdict puts Columbia in position to even the best-of-five ECHL South Division championship series at 2-all with a win on Saturday at the Coliseum.
Tsimikalis broke a 3-3 tie at 15:11 of the third period by scoring directly off a face-off in the left circle. He later sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
“To be honest, it was a lucky shot,” said Tsimikalis, referring to his first goal. “I’ve seen a lot of guys do it, but this was the first time for me. I usually just try to draw the puck back, but I went forward on it this time.
“The entry-netter was my first, too. My line hasn’t done too much in the playoffs, so it’s nice to be able to contribute in a game we had to win.”
Inferno coach Troy Mann said it was a matter of time before Tsimikalis broke through offensively.
“He’s a changed hockey player since coming back from Toronto, a better all around player,” Mann said. “His point total is OK, but he really hasn’t been rewarded much with points for being all over the ice like he has been. He has the one the best set of hands that I’ve seen and that goal on the face-off was definitely a ‘hands’ goals. Not too many guys have the skill to pull off that kind of goal.”
Liam Huculak gave Columbia a 3-2 lead in the second period on a wrist shot through a screen from just inside the blue line. South Carolina tied it late in the second on a shorthanded breakaway tally by Trent Campbell following a blue-line turnover by Inferno defenseman Reid Cashman.
“We talked for two days about coming out strong and getting right back into the series, and we’ve done that,” said Mann. “This team has been a resilient bunch all season.”