The domination from Ohio teams continues. In 2013, the Cincinnati Cyclones won the North Division but just fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals. In 2014, that same Cincinnati team returned to the Eastern Conference Finals, and this time clinched the title. Unfortunately, they fell short in the Kelly Cup Finals. In 2015, the Toledo Walleye are next up to the plate. After pouncing the Fort Wayne Komets in seven games to capture the North Division crown, the Walleye are moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in Walleye history, and the first time for the city of Toledo since 2006 when the Toledo Storm accomplished the feat.
Will this be the year? Will the Kelly Cup finally return to the state of Ohio? The Walleye are eight wins shy of doing just that. But first, they need to finish off the Eastern Conference and one team stands in their way of the Kelly Cup Finals. That team is the South Carolina Stingrays, who are in the Conference Finals for a fifth time, and the first time since 2009.
But first, let’s break down how they got here. Toledo of course, captured the Brabham Cup for the best team during the regular season. In a extremely physical North Division Semi-Finals, the Walleye were able to stave off the surging Wheeling Nailers in seven games. As stated the earlier, they would then capture the North Division title by defeating the Fort Wayne Komets in seven games as well. Toledo became just the fourth team in ECHL postseason history to win two Game Sevens in the same playoff year.
South Carolina has continued to impress in their record-breaking season. When all hope had seemed lost, in Game 7 of the East Division Semi-Finals against the Reading Royals, down 2-0 heading into the 3rd period, South Carolina mounts a tremendous comeback in regulation time to win Game 7, 3-2 to advance to the Division Finals. Then in a stunning upset, the Stingrays would pounce the #1 seeded Florida Everblades in six games. South Carolina is tied with Cincinnati for the second most Conference Finals appearances in ECHL history with five appearances each.
If you like an intense, highly competitive series, you’re going to feel right at home with this match-up. Featured in this series is a Toledo team that had the biggest turnaround in ECHL history with 49 points in 2013-2014, and 107 points in 2014-2015. Their South Carolina counterparts have had a record shattering season. Riding a 23, yes, TWENTY-THREE game winning streak which shattered Cincinnati’s record of 17 straight victories, set back in 2007-2008. A goaltending battle is bound to ensue as well. Jeff Jakaitis of South Carolina won Goalie of the Year in 2014-2015. Guess who his runner-up was? That’s right. Toledo’s Jeff Lerg.
Unlike the Fort Wayne/Toledo series where the home team won every single game. This series will be a bit of a different flavor as during the regular season between Toledo and South Carolina, the road team won every single game.
Some numbers to look at before the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals get underway…
Regular Season Head-To-Head:
Overall Regular Season Record: Toledo (50-15-7); South Carolina (40-25-7)
Overall Head-To-Head Record: Toledo (3-1-0); South Carolina (1-2-1)
Home Record: Toledo (0-1-0); South Carolina (0-2-1)
Road Record: Toledo (3-0-0); South Carolina (1-0-0)
Point Leader: Toledo – Kyle Bonis (6); South Carolina; Derek DeBlois (4)
Goaltending Leader: Toledo – Jeff Lerg (2-1-0, 3.03 GAA, 0.912 SAV%); South Carolina – Jeff Jakaitis (1-2-0, 4.47 GAA, 0.853 GAA)
**Note: Don’t let some of these numbers fool you. Three of the four games during this season series took place before South Carolina’s historic winning streak**
Appearances: Toledo (16); South Carolina (21)
Points: Toledo – Shane Bershbach (19); South Carolina – Wayne Simpson (18)
Goaltending: Toledo – Jeff Lerg (7-3-2, 2.14 GAA, 0.930 SAV%); South Carolina: Jeff Jakaitis (8-3-2, 2.55 GAA, 0.909 SAV%)
Playoff Head-To-Head: There is none. This is the 1st time that South Carolina and Toledo have clashed in the postseason.
Game 7’s seem to be the trend this year. I have a feeling a third one is on the way for Toledo. However, the East Division has had the North Division’s number all season and was the toughest division in the league this year. Ever since South Carolina’s big win streak, they’ve seemed untouchable. I’m going Stingrays in 7.
Eastern Conference Finals Schedule:
Game 1 – Friday May 15th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
Game 2 – Saturday May 16th, 2015 @ Toledo – 8:05pm EST
Game 3 – Wednesday May 20th, 2015 @ South Carolina – 7:05pm EST
Game 4 – Friday May 22nd, 2015 @ South Carolina – 7:05pm EST
**Game 5 – Saturday May 23rd, 2015 @ South Carolina – 7:05pm EST
**Game 6 – Tuesday May 26th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
**Game 7 – Wednesday May 27th, 2015 @ Toledo – 7:35pm EST
Stat Of The Day: Whether it be the Toledo Storm or the Toledo Walleye. South Carolina holds a 20-3-1 record all time against Toledo.