The South Carolina Stingrays did their part Friday night against the Elmira Jackals.
Now the Stingrays will have to sit back this weekend and do a little scoreboard watching and hope the Orlando Solar Bears stumble in their final two games.
Nick Larson and Wayne Simpson each had a goal and an assist and Allen York made 24 saves to lead South Carolina past Elmira, 4-1, in the regular season finale Friday night before a crowd of 5,343 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays finished the regular season at 43-23-6 (92 points) and currently lead Orlando by four points for first place in the ECHL's South Division.
If the Solar Bears lose in regulation or in overtime or a shootout in their final two games, the Stingrays will capture their first division title since the 2007-08 season. Orlando faces Reading and Greenville in their final two games.
The Kelly Cup playoffs will begin next week for the Stingrays. Now the question is who the Stingrays will play and when and where the best-of-seven series will start.
Even if the Stingrays don't win the South Division, they could have home-ice advantage during the opening round of the playoffs. However, Cincinnati and Orlando are in position to jump over the Stingrays in the standings in both teams win their remaining games this weekend.
"We took care of business tonight, we were committed for 60 minutes and got the two points," said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. "It was a good, good win for us. We probably could have scored six or seven goals and we didn't give up much in our own zone. Now, we just have to wait and see how everything else shakes out. It would be nice for us to win a division title, but at this point it doesn't matter a whole lot because we know we're in the playoffs."
The return of team captain Kevin Quick and forwards Igor Gongalsky and Jordan Owens breathed new life into the Stingrays lineup. Quick had missed the last five months with a broken leg, while Gongalsky had been out of the lineup for nearly six weeks with an upper body injury. Owens had been with the Hamilton Bulldogs, of the American Hockey League, since Thanksgiving.
"Having all three of those guys back in the lineup gave everyone a huge boost mentally," Carbery said. "Those are veteran guys who know how to be successful in this league. It's great to see all of them back on the ice."
It was Quick's first games since breaking his leg back in early November. The Stingrays captain admitted to being a little nervous before taking the ice, but was happy to play in at least one game before the start of the postseason.
"It felt really, really good and I was happy to get that game in before the playoffs," Quick said. "There were a couple of long shifts that I could have done without, but overall I felt good. Hopefully next week I can make a few more plays out there, but overall it was great to be back."
No player impacted the Stingrays lineup more than Owens, who was on the Stingrays top line with Jack Downing and Larson.
"Jordan is the consummate professional and he's an impact player at this level," Carbery said. "He's a difference maker."
The Stingrays trailed 1-0 early in the game after Jordan Pietrus scored less than four minutes into the game.
But the Stingrays answered when Downing scored tied the game at 1-1 less than two minutes later.
The Stingrays took the lead for good when Simpson recorded his 22nd goal of the season on the power play with 3:09 to play in the opening period.
Larson scored with less than two minutes left in the second period to extend the Stingrays advantage 3-1, and Gongalsky got an empty net goal for the final margin of victory.
Elmira 1 0 0 -1
South Carolina 2 1 1 -4
First Period: 1. E, Pietrus 15 (unassisted), 3:51. 2. SC, Downing 16 (Owens, Larson), 5:32. 3. SC, Simpson 22 (Ellis, Gensler), 16:51 (PP). Penalties: Jacobs, E (delay of game), 7:28; Vaskivuo, E (high-sticking - double), 14:27.
Second Period: 4. SC, Larson 10 (unassisted) 18:47. Penalties: Jacobs, E (roughing), 6:00; Owens, SC (roughing), 6:00; Boychuk, E (fighting - major), 13:41; Gerths, SC (interference), 13:41; King, SC (fighting - major), 13:41.
Third Period: 5. SC, Gongalsky 7 (Simpson), 18:45 (EN). Penalties: Ellis, SC (holding), 9:51; York, SC (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:31; Elmira bench, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:55; Bellamy, E (elbowing, roughing), 18:55; King, SC (roughing), 18:55.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 15-19-11-45; Elmira:8-10-7-25. Penalties: Stingrays 6-15; Elmira 8-19. Power Play: Stingrays: 1 for 5; Elmira 0 for 3. Goalies: Stingrays - Allen York (11-7-1) 25 shots, 24 saves. Elmira - Chris Driedger (1-2-0) 44 shots, 41 saves. Att: 5,343.
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