Two hours after an emotional Game 7 victory over the Reading Royals Wednesday night, the South Carolina Stingrays piled onto a bus for the nine-hour ride down to Estero, Fla.
No rest for the weary.
There was little time for the players or the coaching staff to celebrate their 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Royals in Game 7 of their Kelly Cup East Division semifinal series before they packed up their gear and boarded the bus. It was just the second Game 7 victory in the club’s history. The first one came in the Kelly Cup finals in Alaska in 2009.
But that was OK with everyone involved. The Stingrays were just happy to be moving onto the next round of the Kelly Cup playoffs.
The Stingrays open up their best-of-seven East Division final series Friday night at Germain Arena against the Florida Everblades. Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday night at Germain Arena.
“The hardest part for us is that we really won’t be able to enjoy winning the series with Reading for very long,” said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “One of two things can happen for us. Either we’re going to be drained from a very tough, very physical seven-game series, or we’ll be ready to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, we’re ready to keep the momentum going. It was a good atmosphere on the bus on the ride down.”
Coming down from off a high like Wednesday night’s victory won’t be easy, but team captain Andrew Rowe is confident that it won’t take long for the team to refocus on the Everblades and the next round of the playoffs.
“As soon as we hopped on the bus it was back to work for us,” Rowe said. “Sometimes too much of a break can be harmful. It can end your momentum. Right now, I think we’re in a rhythm so we love it. We can’t wait to get back on the ice. Florida is a really good team, very offensive and well coached. They’re very fast and they have one of the best offensive teams in the league, but I think we’ve got the best defensive team in the league. Our penalty killing has been really good for most of the playoffs, so we’re excited to be playing against them.”
Joe Devin, who scored two third period goals against Reading, including the game-winner with less than four minutes to play, said the quick turnaround will test the team’s mental and physical toughness.
“It’s going to be a pretty tough turnaround,” Devin said. “This is our fourth game in the last six days, so that’s a lot of hockey in a short period of time. We’re on a high right now and we just want to try and keep it rolling down in Florida. We’re a very confident team right now and that’s a key in the playoffs.”
The Everblades had one of the top offensive teams in the ECHL during the regular season. Only Allen (292) and Toledo (281) scored more than the Everblades’ 267 goals.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup, Florida is a great hockey team with a lot of firepower,” Carbery said. “They are very potent offensively, probably the most potent team in the playoffs. They are kind of like Reading, but more prolific offensively than Reading. We’re going to cram in a video session here pretty quickly and get everyone ready to go for Game 1 on Friday.”