Mike Condon was one of the best players for the Wheeling Nailers during the regular season, and on Friday night, he started the playoffs that way as well. Condon turned aside all 23 shots he faced, while Chaz Johnson, Christiaan Minella, and Mike Ratchuk lit the lamp, as Wheeling won the opening game of its best-of-seven series, 3-0 against the South Carolina Stingrays at North Charleston Coliseum.
The Nailers were eager to begin the playoffs, and it showed early, as they needed just 1:46 to open the scoring. Paul Cianfrini won a puck battle in the right corner, before dropping a pass off to Chaz Johnson in the right circle. Johnson teed up a shot, snapping it through his former teammate, Allen York. Later in the frame, Wheeling extended its lead. Sahir Gill swung the puck behind the goal to Max MacKay, who quickly spotted Christiaan Minella in the left circle. Minella banged a one-timer through York's legs, giving the visitors a 2-0 advantage.
Neither team could dent the twine in the second period, but the Nailers added one more insurance marker in the third. Peter Merth picked off a pass in neutral ice, springing Shane Bakker down the right side of the offensive zone. Bakker curled his way behind the cage, before setting up Mike Ratchuk, who wired in a one-timer from the top of the left circle.
Mike Condon made the win hold up, as he made 23 saves for his fourth shutout of the month and seventh of the year. Allen York took the loss for South Carolina, stopping 30 of the 33 shots he faced.
The Nailers and Stingrays will play game two at North Charleston Coliseum on Saturday at 7:05, before the series shifts back to Wheeling on April 23rd, 25th, and 26th (if necessary), with all games starting at 7:00 p.m..