The matchup for the 2017 Kelly Cup Finals is set, pitting the Colorado Eagles against the South Carolina Stingrays. The fight for Mr. Kelly’s Cup begins tonight in Loveland, CO.

The South Carolina Stingrays are making their fifth appearance in the Riley/Kelly Cup Finals, which is a league record. On the other side, the Colorado Eagles are making their first appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals, and first appearance in a league championship series since 2010-11, when they lost to the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in the CHL Finals.

Regular Season Records

Colorado Eagles: 47-20-2-3 (99 Pts — Second in Mountain Division, Third in Western Conference)

South Carolina Stingrays: 40-28-3-1 (84 Pts — Third in Atlantic Division, Seventh in Eastern Conference)

How They Got Here:

Colorado Eagles:

Mountain Division Semifinals: Defeated Idaho Steelheads 4-1

Mountain Division Finals: Defeated Allen Americans 4-2

Western Conference Finals: Defeated Toledo Walleye 4-2

South Carolina Stingrays:

South Division Semifinals: Defeated Greenville Swamp Rabbits 4-2

South Division Finals: Defeated Florida Everblades 4-1

Eastern Conference Finals: Defeated Manchester Monarchs 4-3

Series Schedule (Home Team in BOLD CAPS and all times local):

Game 1 – Friday, May 26 – South Carolina at COLORADO  7:05 pm MT

Game 2 – Sunday, May 28 – South Carolina at COLORADO 7:30 pm MT

Game 3 – Sunday, June 4 – Colorado at SOUTH CAROLINA  7:05 pm ET

Game 4 – Monday, June 5 – Colorado at SOUTH CAROLINA 7:05 pm ET

*Game 5 – Wednesday, June 7 – Colorado at SOUTH CAROLINA 7:05 pm ET

*Game 6 – Friday, June 9 — South Carolina at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT

*Game 7 – Saturday, June 10 – South Carolina at COLORADO 7:05 pm MT

*=> If Necessary

Season Series Recap:

These two teams played six times during the 2016-17 regular season, with the Eagles winning four of the six meetings.

Luke Salazar led Colorado with seven goals in the season series, and shared the team lead in points with Casey Pierro-Zabotel (1G, 8A) with nine points each. South Carolina was led by Rob Flick, who scored six goals and had 10 points.

Interestingly, the Stingrays ended Colorado’s franchise record 17-game winning streak on March 4. That win streak is the second-longest in ECHL history, to the Stingrays’ 23-game run back in 2015.

It will also be the first time since the Stingrays played Trenton in the 2001 Kelly Cup Finals that two teams playing in the Finals also met during the regular season.

How Colorado Wins:

Offensively, the Eagles are lead by Alex Belzile, who has been red hot for the Colorado Eagles during their run to the Kelly Cup Finals. In 14 games, he has 24 points (14G, 10A). On the blueline, the Eagles have a pair of stud offensive defensemen. Matt Register has continued his scoring pace in the postseason as he leads all blueliners with six goals and 20 points. Jake Marto, is second among defensemen with 15 points (4g-11a).

The key to the Eagles’ success in this series lies in what the can do on defense and in between the pipes. We all know the firepower is there (as shown above,) but the defense has left something to be desired in these playoffs, allowing four or more goals six times. Both Lukas Hafner and Kent Simpson have seen time in goal for Colorado through three rounds. Hafner has appeared in 12 games with a record of 10-2, a 2.60 goals-against average and a save percentage of .896. Simpson is 2-2 in four appearances with a 3.02 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage. They will need to be very good in this series for the Eagles.

How South Carolina Wins:

The Stingrays have been stingy on defense in these playoffs, allowing two goals or less in 11 of their 18 postseason contests. In addition, goaltender Parker Milner has been a stalwart in net for the Rays, playing all but three minutes this postseason. He leads all goaltenders in the postseason with three shutouts, is fifth with a 2.17 goals-against average and is sixth with a .920 save percentage.

Offensively, the Stingrays are led by Rob Flick, who is second through three rounds of the playoffs with 11 goals and is tied for third with 20 points. Domenic Monardo has 12 assists, which is fourth in the postseason and his 18 points are tied for fifth.

This seems cliche to say, but for the Rays to win this series, they will need to grind out games and avoid getting into an uptempo game with the Eagles. If they can somehow manage to keep games 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, that is an advantage for the Stingrays.

Also, it would appear the Rays have the momentum heading into game one of the Finals, having just come off a game 7 win in Manchester Wednesday night. On the other side, Colorado has not played in six days. It will be interesting to see how game one shakes out and if South Carolina is able to use that momentum to steal the opening game at the Budweiser Events Center.

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