South Carolina Stingrays top Greenville Road Warriors, advance to ECHL playoffs
South Carolina Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery didn’t want to back into the ECHL’s Kelly Cup playoffs.
They didn’t need to. The Stingrays decided to bust through the front door.
Needing two wins this weekend over Greenville, the Stingrays beat the Road Warriors — a team they’d struggled with all season — twice, and did it in convincing fashion Saturday night in the season finale.
Daren Machesney made 24 saves and Daniel Koger and Shea Walters each had a goal and an assist to lead the Stingrays past Greenville, 5-2, Saturday night before a raucous crowd of 5,942 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays (37-28-7, 81 points) finished seventh in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference and will open up their best-of-five opening round Kelly Cup playoff series against second-seeded Gwinnett on Tuesday night at the North Charleston Coliseum at 7 p.m. Game 2 will be at home before the series shifts to Duluth, Ga., for the final three games.
“We knew what we had to do and to the guys’ credit, they went out there and got the job done this weekend,” said Carbery. “I’m so proud of them. We needed to build some confidence going into the playoffs, and I think we got a little of our swagger back this weekend. I think we might have added some believers in the locker room. I don’t think this team is done.”
The Stingrays got contributions all over the ice, but none were more important than from the rookies who collected three goals on the night. Nielsson Arcibal, Michael Dorr and Walters were playing college hockey a month ago and all scored for the Stingrays in their biggest game of the season.
“I can’t say enough about the way those college kids played,” said Stingrays captain Matt Scherer. “They gave us a lot of energy, and what they lacked in experience they more than made up for with grit and hard work. We would be looking for tee times without those guys this weekend.”
The biggest contribution might have come from Machesney, who missed nine weeks with a groin pull, but returned in time to rescue the Stingrays with two impressive wins this weekend over the Road Warriors. Machesney made 30 saves Friday to lift the Stingrays to a 3-2 victory over Greenville for his first win since Jan. 28.
“I think I’ve got the best defense playing in front of me, and that’s where a lot of the credit should go to,” Machesney said. “I had some rust being off as long as I was, but the guys made my job so much easier out there the last two nights. I feel good, I feel confident.”
Just like Friday night, Machesney gave up a goal on the Road Warriors’ first shot, but rebounded to play solid down the stretch.
The Stingrays jumped to an early 2-0 lead on goals from Arcibal and Pierre-Luc O’Brien. But Greenville answered with goals from Marc-Olivier Vallerand and Adam Cormie.
After a scoreless second period, Daniel Koger got the game winner five minutes into the third period when he tapped in a Maxime Lacroix rebound.
“I was lucky, I was in the right place and got my stick on the puck,” Koger sad.
Walters and Dorr put an exclamation point on the game in the final 10 minutes.
Matt Pope (Hershey), Billy Ryan (Hershey) and Sean Dolan (Charlotte) are currently called up to the American Hockey League.
Goalies Philipp Grubauer (lower body) and forwards Chris Higgins and David de Kastrozza (lower body) and Mike Hamilton (lower body) are out of the lineup with injuries.
@The Stingrays are 22-11-3 at home and 15-17-4 on the road this season.
Greenville 2 0 0—2
Stingrays 2 0 3—5
First Period: 1. SC, Arcibal 1 (Walters, Oreskovic), 5:32. 2. SC, O’Brien 24 (Cullen), 8:33. 3. G, Vallerand 30 (Cunningham), 9:11. 4. G, Comrie 4 (Robinson), 12:38. Penalties: Connolly, G (boarding), 13:18; O’Brien, SC (slashing0, 13:50; Stevenson, SC (slashing), 17:33.
Second Period: No goals. Penalties: Vallerand, G (slashing), 3:40; Robinson, G (hooking), 10:07; Stewart, SC (slashing), 13:00; Lacroix, SC (holding), 19:19.
Third Period: 5. SC, Koger 11 (Lacroix, Tarkir), 4:53. 6. SC, Walters 1 (Stewart, Kipp), 11:26. 7. SC, Dorr 2 ((Koger, Lacroix), 19:34. Penalties: No penalties.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 9-14-8-31; Greenville: 8-12-6-26. Penalties: Stingrays 4-8; Greenville 3-6. Power Play: Stingrays 0 for 3; Greenville 0 for 4. Goalies: Stingrays –.Darren Machesney (11-9-0) 26 shots, 24 saves. Greenville – Nic Riopel (14-9-2) 21 shots, 17 saves. Att: 4,906.