The Sin Bin’s Kelly Cup Playoff Coverage is presented by Kalwei Law Firm
As part of their ECHL-record 23-game winning streak earlier this season, the South Carolina Stingrays won 13 straight road games (also a league record.)
Headed into game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals, the Stingrays had an 8-2 road record, including a game 7 triple overtime victory in Toledo to earn a berth in the Finals.
“We were a good road team during the regular season and we’ve been able to carry that over to the playoffs,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “It’s a loud building and Allen has some very vocal fans, but I just don’t think our guys get intimidated in those kinds of environments. I think this team kind of enjoys the challenge and thrives in those us-against-the-world situations.”
On the other side of the ledger, Allen possesses the best offense in the ECHL this season, and had a home record of 8-2 headed into Sunday’s game 1.
Consider it a case of the unstoppable force, South Carolina, taking on the immovable object, Allen.
Allen struck first, just 58 seconds in, as defenseman Trevor Ludwig fired a shot from just inside the blueline that deflected past Stingrays goalie Jeff Jakaitis to give Allen a 1-0 lead. When scoring first in these playoffs, Allen was 7-1.
The lead would not last long though, as the Stingrays’ vaunted line of Andrew Rowe/Wayne Simpson/Derek DeBlois went to work. Rowe evened the score at 3:45 of the first on a breakaway opportunity, caused when Greger Hansen sold out to make a big hit in the Allen end.
Minutes later, playoff leading scorer Wayne Simpson got into the act when defenseman Michal Cajkovsky spurred a 3-on-2 rush up the ice and Simpson put it past Riley Gill to give South Carolina a 2-1 lead. The scoring would not end there, as Simpson added his second of the period at 10:50 of the opening stanza, to give South Carolina a 3-1 lead after 1.
Allen would fight back, as Gary Steffes recorded his 10th goal of the playoffs off a rebound from an Aaron Gens shot, that made it 3-2 after 2 periods of play.
The comeback continued into the 3rd, as Spencer Asuchak scored off the rebound to even the score at 3, just 103 seconds into the final period. However, the unstoppable force was not to be denied. Sean Dolan settled a pass from Patrick Gaul to score the game winning goal short-handed with 8:30 left in the third period to give the Stingrays a 4-3 win.
“Another great individual effort from Sean Dolan,” Carbery said. “It was a huge, huge goal and we needed it.”
Just how big was this win for South Carolina? Game 1 winners are 105-45 all-time in ECHL best-of-seven series and have won 18 of the 26 Kelly Cup Finals.
Conversely, Allen lost 2 of their 3 game 1’s en route to their second straight CHL title last season. Steve Martinson has a 8-1 record in game 2’s as Allen’s head coach.
So again, unstoppable force versus the immovable object.