Final Regular Season Records:
South Carolina Stingrays: 44-18-7-3 (98 pts—South Division Champions)
Kalamazoo Wings : 38-28-5-1 (82 pts)
Game Schedule (Home Team in BOLD CAPS and All Times Local):
Game 1 – Friday, April 15, 7:00 p.m. South Carolina at KALAMAZOO
Game 2 – Saturday, April 16, 7:00 p.m. South Carolina at KALAMAZOO
Game 3 – Monday, April 18, 7:00 p.m. South Carolina at KALAMAZOO
Game 4- Thursday, April 21, 7:05 p.m. Kalamazoo at SOUTH CAROLINA
* Game 5 – Saturday, April 23, 7:05 p.m. Kalamazoo at SOUTH CAROLINA
* Game 6 – Sunday, April 24, 7:05 p.m. Kalamazoo at SOUTH CAROLINA
* Game 7 – Tuesday, April 26, 7:05 p.m. Kalamazoo at SOUTH CAROLINA
*= If Necessary
Season Series: South Carolina and Kalamazoo did not face each other during the regular season in 2015-2016. The two teams have faced off in the Kelly Cup Playoffs just once. Kalamazoo took the 2012 conference semifinals match up with the Stingrays 4-1.
How South Carolina Wins: The Stingrays have a one-two punch in goal with Vitek Vanecek and Mark Dekanich. Both goalies appeared in over 30 games and won at least 18 of them. The duo helped the Stingrays set a new franchise record for fewest goals allowed with 162. Vanacek is 2nd in the ECHL in Goals Against Average at 2.03 and Dekanich is fourth with 2.16.
South Carolina’s special teams have been tremendous this season and both finished in the top five in the ECHL. Despite being the most penalized team in the East, the Stingrays have the number one penalty kill.
David Pacan has proven to be an excellent addition from the past offseason scoring 20 goals and adding 42 assists. Pacan has developed chemistry with Austin Fyten and veteran of last year’s run Caleb Herbert. Kelly Zajac, a late addition has also fit in well with returners Joe Devin and Derek DeBlois. Throw in a healthy Brett Cameron and the Stingrays offense is very potent.
The Stingrays need to kill penalties like they’ve done all season. Rely on experience and depth to push the pace and keep the game moving. Turn up the physicality and keep the crease in front of their net clear of pucks and players.
How Kalamazoo Wins: In the final 30 games of the regular the Wings were almost unbeatable when scoring the first goal of the game going 17-2-1. Kalamazoo was also excellent at closing out leads after the second all season going 25-0-4-1. The Stingrays will have a tough time if they go down early.
The 23-year-old Ludwig Blomstrand leads the Wings with 63 points (29 goals and 34 assists). Another player to watch is Justin Taylor who finished the season red hot with points in 10 of the last 12 games. Taylor was with the Wings the last time they faced the Stingrays in the playoffs in 2012. In goal it should be Joel Martin in who posted a 36-21-5-1 record and .918 SV% this season. He set an ECHL record last week after being named the Goaltender of the Week for the eighth time in his career.
The Wings backup is a familiar name for Stingrays fans. Clay Witt, who appeared in four playoff games for the Stingrays signed an AHL deal with Utica and was assigned to Kalamazoo.
The Wings will have to jump on the Stingrays early and not be phased by South Carolina’s physicality. They’ll need to crash the net to screen the goaltender and bury any second chance opportunities to win.
Both teams come in to the playoff on fire as the Stingrays were unbeaten in regulation in their final 16 games and Kalamazoo winners of nine of its last ten games. The playoffs are a different animal and anything can happen which is why this is the most fun time of the year.
Stay tuned with The Sin Bin for more Kelly Cup Playoffs coverage.