NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – With the South Carolina Stingrays getting by the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the first round, most of us were unsure of what to expect when they moved on to the next round to take on the Florida Everblades.
So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve seen from the ‘Rays in the second round. They’ve seemed to have been coming out every night with a do-or-die attitude, and that could be the difference maker, here. Or, perhaps the difference maker could be that they’ve got a goaltender who’s found his groove and the fact that a new guy is stepping up to score almost every night.
To say that Parker Milner has been solid for the Stingrays this postseason would be an understatement. Heading into play on Thursday, he’s got a 1.91 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. In the regular season, Milner finished with a 2.72 goals against average, so it’s safe to say that he’s upped his game for the playoffs.
When it comes to skaters, players like Rob Flick and Domenic Monardo have stepped up to the plate and have been players to watch in every game. Both Flick and Monardo are currently sitting at twelve points in ten games played; Flick with seven goals, five assists and Monardo with the opposite, five goals and seven assists.
Along with Flick and Monardo, Andrew Cherniwchan has been a surprisingly big help for the ‘Rays. Cherniwchan is having arguably the best season of his ECHL career, finishing out the regular season with 29 points in 36 games played. So far in the playoffs, he’s been sitting at eight points in ten games.
A small concern that comes to mind is the guys that were stepping up and had their names on the post-game sheets every night in the first round, that have suddenly flown under the radar. Guys like captain Joe Devin and center Kelly Zajac. With the exception of Zajac’s empty net goal in the final minute and a half of game three against the Everblades, he’s been very quiet. Zajac led the ‘Rays in points in the regular season, until he was called up to the AHL by Hershey. Even after his return, he was tearing up the score sheet, piling on assists almost every night. He was sitting in second place with 52 points, behind only Rob Flick in first, with 63.
Now, neither Devin nor Zajac are major causes for concern, seeing as how they’re sitting with eight and nine points in ten games, respectively. I’m just curious to see how their leadership roles will stack up when it becomes crunch time for the ‘Rays. We all know that the Everblades aren’t going to let tonight’s game five go as easily as they let last night’s game four.
While Flick, Monardo, and Cherniwchan are key players to watch, I’d keep an eye out for Devin and Zajac tonight as well. I have a feeling one of them may be a difference maker when it comes to taking game five and moving on to the Conference Finals for the third straight season.
The South Carolina Stingrays look to close out the Florida Everblades tonight at the North Charleston Coliseum. Puck drop is at 7:05.
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