NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – Two first period goals were enough for the South Carolina Stingrays to defeat the Florida Everblades 2-1 and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third consecutive year on Thursday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays won the series four games to one to become the first team in the ECHL’s Kelly Cup Playoffs to advance to the Conference Final round. South Carolina also improved to a perfect 6-0 at home during the postseason.
Parker Milner won his eighth game of the postseason by making 28 saves. The goaltender has played every minute of every game for South Carolina and has been the backbone of the team during its playoff run. Through 11 games, Milner has a goals against average of 1.83 and a save percentage at 0.932.
South Carolina got first period goals from Andrew Cherniwchan and Olivier Archambault in a span of 54 seconds to take a 2-0 lead.
Cherniwchan put home his fifth tally of the postseason on a rebound in front of the Florida net off an initial shot by Domenic Monardo at 13:56. Rob Flick started the rush into the offensive zone by chipping a puck down the wall to Monardo, who moved to the side of the net for a shot on goal. The save was made by Florida goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, but a rebound sat in front for Cherniwchan, who ripped it up high and into the net.
Seconds later it was Kelly Zajac who sprung Archambault free in the offensive zone for a chance at the net. The forward moved the puck to the backhand and created space to slide it into the right side of the cage for his second goal of the playoffs at 14:50.
After a scoreless second period, the Stingrays took their 2-0 advantage to the third. Despite allowing a goal to John McCarron that cut the lead in half at 4:33 of the final frame, the Rays managed to keep the Everblades to the outside and the chances to a minimum the rest of the way. Florida managed eight shots on goal in the third period.
The teams finished even in shots on net for the game at 29 apiece. Nedeljkovic turned aside 27 shots in the contest for the Everblades in the loss. Both teams were scoreless on the man-advantage in the game with South Carolina finishing 0-for-3 and Florida ending at 0-for-2.
The Stingrays will take on either the Manchester Monarchs or Brampton Beast in the Eastern Conference Finals. Manchester currently has a 3-2 series lead on the Beast with Game 6 tonight in Brampton.