The Chase for the Kelly Cup begins with a Round 1 matchup between the South Carolina Stingrays and the Orlando Solar Bears. South Carolina finished second in the South Division and had the third-best record in the ECHL with 104 points. Orlando finished a distant third with 75 points. The Stingrays won the season series 7-3-0-1.
Game 1 – Thursday, April 12 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina
Game 2 – Saturday, April 14 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina
Game 3 – Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. ET at Orlando
Game 4 – Saturday, April 21 at 7 p.m. ET at Orlando
Game 5 – Sunday, April 22 at 6 p.m. ET at Orlando (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Tuesday, April 24 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Wednesday, April 25 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina (If Necessary)
Statistics Comparison (Numbers in Parenthesis are ranking in the ECHL)
South Carolina Stingrays:
Overall Record: 48-16-7-1 (3)
Home Record: 28-8-4-0 (5)
Away Record: 24-8-3-1 (2)
Last 10 Games: 8-1-1-0
Goals Scored: 214 (17)
Goals Allowed: 153 (1)
Power Play: 17.8% (11)
Penalty Killing: 90.5% (1)
Orlando Solar Bears:
Overall Record: 33-30-6-3 (16)
Home Record: 16-13-4-3 (17)
Away Record: 17-17-2-0 (T-13)
Last 10 Games: 3-4-1-2
Goals Scored: 212 (18)
Goals Allowed: 228 (13)
Power Play: 16.0% (18)
Penalty Killing: 82.8% (18)
Stingrays Players to Watch:
Kelly Zajac: 60 games, 20 goals, 36 assists, 56 points; Steven Whitney: 18 goals, 36 assists, 54 points; Joe Devin: 69 games, 20 goals, 31 assists, 51 points
Parker Milner: 38 games, 28-7-3-0, 3 ShO, 1.86 GAA, .929 save percentage; Jeff Jakaitis: 28 games, 18-7-3-0, 2 ShO, 2.13 GAA, .922 save percentage
Solar Bears Players to Watch:
Hunter Fejes: 35 games, 14 goals, 18 assists, 32 points; Max Novak: 66 games, 21 goals, 36 assists, 57 points; Joshua Winquist: 55 games, 18 goals, 35 assists, 53 points
Cal Heeter: 43 games, 19-15-4-2, 1 ShO, 2.74 GAA, .915 save percentage. Mackenzie Skapski: 33 games, 12-14-2-1, 2 ShO, 3.03 GAA, .906 save percentage.
There are really only two teams in the ECHL that can say that they match up well against Florida, and South Carolina is one of them. They have the top goaltender in the league in Parker Milner, who led the ECHL in goals-against average, while finishing third in wins. The Stingrays are not very deep offensively, but they don’t need to be. They play such sound defense and can rely on Milner to make big saves for them when needed. They are perfectly content to win games 2-1.
Orlando has gotten a lot better offensively since Fejes was acquired from Wheeling. He’s a true sniper, who finished with 30 goals overall this season. There is no doubt that the Solar Bears have enough offense to keep themselves close in games. The question will be if their goaltending can hold up. They are going to need one of their netminders to steal at least one of these games, probably two, if they expect to knock off the heavily favored Stingrays.
Who Will Win:
Despite the fact that these two teams finished 29 points apart in the standings, this should be a lot closer series than most think. However, South Carolina has a date with destiny, as they will move on to face Florida in the next round. They already showed they can dominate the Solar Bears, winning the season series, 7-3-0-1. Take the Stingrays, 4 Games to 2.
By Robert Pannier