A fun and memorable season for the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays concluded on May 17 when the Cincinnati Cyclones defeated the Rays 2-1 in overtime at North Charleston Arena. The Cyclones ousted South Carolina in five games in the ECHL’s American Conference finals. The Cyclones are now facing the Las Vegas Wranglers for the Kelly Cup; the series is even at 1-1.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in their history in 2006-07, the Stingrays piled up 97 points with a 47-22-2-1 regular season record under first-year coach Jared Bednar in 2007-08. The Rays finished second in the ECHL’s South Division and posted the second highest point total in franchise history.
The Stingrays reeled off a 12-game winning streak during the season, the longest in franchise history and just two shy of what was the league record at that time.
South Carolina drew division foe Augusta in the first round of the ECHL playoffs. In the best-of-five series against the Lynx, the Stingrays dropped the first two games and fell into a 0-2 hole. They then roared back to win three straight games – including two in overtime – to advance to the next round.
Facing Gwinnett in the second round, the Stingrays jumped out to a 2-0 series lead before the Gladiators rallied to even the best-of-five set at 2-2. South Carolina goaltender Davis Parley forged a 2-0 shutout (with 33 saves) in the deciding Game 5, moving on to the South Division finals against Columbia.
A similar pattern played out against the Inferno. The Stingrays won the first two, and then dropped a pair as Columbia pulled even. Once again, Parley pitched a 2-0 shutout in the deciding game, making 23 saves to propel the Stingrays to the American Conference finals and a date with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
Alas, this is where the Rays’ season ended. The Cyclones won the best-of-seven set in five games. Three of the five tightly contested games went into overtime, with Cincinnati winning two of those three.
Losing Game 2 of that series in Cincinnati was particularly painful. After dropping the opener 6-2, the Stingrays took a 3-0 lead into the third period of Game 2. Twenty minutes away from stealing a game on the road, the Rays gave up three tallies to allow the Cyclones to knot the score. With less than five minutes remaining in regulation, Andrew Gordon scored to give South Carolina a 4-3 lead, but the Rays couldn’t hold it. They surrendered the tying goal with just 1:04 left in regulation and needed less than five minutes worth of overtime to win it.
South Carolina took a 5-4 overtime decision on home ice in Game 3, but fell 3-1 in Game 4. Cincinnati won Game 5 by a 2-1 score on Ryan Russell’s shorthanded goal in overtime. South Carolina played 20 postseason games, a good run by anyone’s measure.
Although the final series between Las Vegas and Cincinnati has yet to be played, several members of the Stingrays can be found among the ECHL’s league leaders for the playoffs. Rookie Travis Morin – Washington’s ninth-round pick (263rd overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft – leads the ECHL with 10 playoff goals. Morin also leads with six power play goals and is tied for fifth in the league in playoff scoring with 17 points.
Marty Guerin had nine goals in 17 playoff contests, and he is tied for second in the circuit in that category. With 16 points, Guerin is tied for eighth on the ECHL playoff scoring charts. Stephen Werner – the Caps’ third-round choice (83rd overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, is tied for 11th in the league in playoff scoring with 15 points. Werner and Stingrays team captain Cail MacLean are tied for 13th in the league with nine playoff assists. Werner’s three game-winning goals are third most in the ECHL during this spring’s Kelly Cup playoffs.
Trent Campbell’s 14 points are good enough for a 13th place tie on the scoring ledger. Defenseman Sean Collins capped off his first pro season with a nine-point postseason (one goal, eight assists). He is tied for fifth among all ECHL blueliners in playoff scoring. Sasha Pokulok had six points and is tied for 13th among defensemen in scoring.