ORLANDO, Fla. – It is rematch time for the 2019 South Division Semifinals that pits the Orlando Solar Bears against the South Carolina Stingrays.
Last year, the Solar Bears stunned many when it swept the Stingrays, and South Carolina will be looking to get some redemption for that embarrassment. Meanwhile, the Solar Bears are looking to push even deeper into the playoffs. Head Coach Drake Berehowsky led his squad into its first ECHL South Division Finals in 2018, and the team will be disappointed with anything less than an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final this year.
Both teams are hot. South Carolina sputtered a bit mid-season, but it regained its footing in the final stretch and enters the playoffs with a three-game win streak and a 7-3 mark in its last ten games.
The Solar Bears are 7-2-1-0 over their last 10 games, and they have been virtually unstoppable recently in the Amway Center. Over its the last 18 home games, Orlando has posted a 13-3-1-1 record.
During the year, special teams were a weak spot for the Solar Bears. They finished the regular season last in the league on the penalty kill. That statistic coupled with abundant penalty minutes (fourth in the league) has meant trouble for Orlando, and look for South Carolina to try to exploit that weakness by baiting the Solar Bears to take stupid penalties.
Orlando compensates for its special teams through speed, lightning offense, and bruising play. It has a number of young forwards who can quickly strike, and the team carries over its scoring threats to its blueliners. Cody Donaghey is sixth in the league among defensemen in points, and Michael Brodzinski is sixteenth.
Final Regular Season Records:
Orlando Solar Bears: 41-25-5-1; #2 in South Division, #3 in Eastern Conference
South Carolina Stingrays: 35-31-5-1; #3 in South Division, #9 in Eastern Conference
Game 1 – Wednesday, April 10 – South Carolina at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
Game 2 – Friday, April 12 – South Carolina at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
Game 3 – Wednesday, April 17 – Orlando at SOUTH CAROLINA, 7:05 p.m. ET
Game 4 – Friday, April 19 – Orlando at SOUTH CAROLINA, 7:05 p.m. ET
*Game 5 – Saturday, April 20 – Orlando at SOUTH CAROLINA, 7:05 p.m. ET
*Game 6 – Monday, April 22 – South Carolina at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
*Game 7 – Wednesday, April 24 – South Carolina at ORLANDO, 7 p.m. ET
*=> If Necessary
How Orlando Wins
If the Solar Bears can put together a disciplined game for the full sixty minutes, they can come out on top. They have the edge in young talent and speed, and their goalies (Connor Ingramand Clint Windsor) will give their team a chance to win if they get some help around the net.
The Solar Bears need to come onto the ice with intensity from the opening minute and avoid some of those soft starts. Do that, and they will ride the crest in this series. The Solar Bears should take the Stingrays seriously: If they underestimate this team, the series could easily turn into the flip of last year, when an overly confident South Carolina squad found itself swept off the ice.
How South Carolina Wins
South Carolina must respect the Solar Bears’ multiple scoring threats. The Stingrays strength remains its defense and its punishing forecheck. They need to get a lead early, and then look for them to exploit Orlando’s soft spot, which is its penalty kill. When the Stingrays’ defense is locked in, it is very hard to play catch up against them.