No franchise in the ECHL has a deeper or more rich Kelly Cup playoff history than the South Carolina Stingrays.
The Stingrays have played in more postseason games (188) than any other franchise in the league. The team is tied with Alaska for the most playoff wins (98) and has been in the Kelly Cup playoffs a record 21 times since first taking the ice in 1993.
The Stingrays, who have won three Kelly Cup titles (1997, 2001 and 2009), are making their ECHL-tying fourth Kelly Cup Finals (1997, 2001, 2009 and 2015) appearance this year against the Allen Americans. The Stingrays lead the best-of-seven series, 2-1, as they head into Game 4 at 7:05 p.m. Sunday at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Over the span of more than two decades, the Stingrays have had many memorable moments during the Kelly Cup playoffs and have recorded more than 700 goals in the postseason.
After careful consideration and consultation with former and current South Carolina players, The Post and Courier has come up with its list of the Top 10 goals in Stingrays’ playoff history.
Who: Joe Devin
Opponent: Toledo Walleye
Series: Game 7 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
Date: May 27, 2015
Location: Huntington Center, Toledo, Ohio
Final score: Stingrays 1, Toledo 0 (3 OT)
The Scenario: The Stingrays had squandered a 3-0 lead in the series and faced a Game 7 for only the third time in franchise history. Devin’s game-winner came just moments after Toledo missed an open net that would have given the Walleye the victory and the series. The Stingrays raced down the ice and Devin caught a drop pass from forward Caleb Herbert, stepped past a Walleye defender, and beat Toledo goalie Jeff Lerg under the blocker for the goal.
What they said: “He’s a guy who obviously loves those big-time pressure moments in Game 7s because he always seems to step up and make a play for us,” said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “It was a huge goal in the history of this organization and one a lot of people are going to remember for a long time.”
Who: Zach Tarkir
Opponent: Florida Everblades
Series: Game 6 of the best-of-seven South Division finals
Date: May 5, 2009
Location: Germain Arena, Estero, Fla.
Final score: Stingrays 4, Florida 3 (OT)
The Scenario: After an emotional Game 5 victory at home, the Stingrays had to board a bus for the nine-hour trip down to Estero, Fla. The Everblades had the best home record in the ECHL during the regular season with a 28-7-1 mark. The Stingrays led 3-1, but the Everblades scored twice in the final 90 seconds to send the game into overtime. Tarkir silenced the crowd with his slap shot in overtime. Almost forgotten was Jonathan Boutin’s 49-save performance that kept the Stingrays in the game.
What they said: “Zach’s goal was such a huge relief for everyone, especially after watching the last two minutes of the game when we thought we had it locked up and they score two goals,” said Stingrays defenseman Nate Kiser. “I think I was clinically dead twice up in the stands, and then I was revived when Zack scored that goal. It was an unbelievable feeling.”
Who: Damien Prescott
Opponent: Mobile Mysticks
Series: Game 5 of the Southern Conference best-of-five finals
Date: May 1, 2001
Location: North Charleston Coliseum
Final score: Stingrays 3, Mobile 2 (2 OT)
The Scenario: In a back-and-forth series, the Stingrays were taken to the limit against Mobile. Goalie Kirk Daubenspeck had been benched after giving up seven goals in a 7-5 loss in Game 3. Prescott’s double-overtime goal ended a hard-fought series and lifted the Stingrays to the conference finals against Louisiana. Chad Remackel forced a turnover in neutral ice and slid the puck over to Prescott, who blasted it past Mobile goalie Reg Bourcier for the series-winner.
What they said: “I had a wide-open net,” Prescott said. “I think if I would have missed that one, I wouldn’t have been able to go back to the bench. They would have killed me. I was tired, I know everyone else was tired. We just wanted to get that one over with.’’
Who: Dave Seitz
Opponent: Pee Dee Pride
Series: Game 5 of the Southern Conference best-of-five quarterfinals
Date: April 15, 2000
Location: Florence Civic Center
Final score: Stingrays 4, Pee Dee 3 (OT)
The Scenario: Pee Dee had dominated South Carolina over the previous two regular seasons and had ousted the Stingrays during the 1998 Kelly Cup playoffs. Trailing 3-2 with less than a minute to play and with goalie Jason Saal pulled for the extra attacker, Seitz scored with 30 seconds to play in regulation to send the game into overtime. On his first shift of the overtime period, he forced a turnover, and beat Pee Dee goalie Sandy Allan with a forehand/backhand move for the game winner.
What they said: “The best two shifts of my career,” Seitz said.
Who: Trent Campbell
Opponent: Alaska Aces
Series: Game 7 of the best-of-seven Kelly Cup Finals
Date: June 5, 2009
Location: Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska
Final score: Stingrays 4, Alaska 2
The Scenario: The Stingrays were up in the Kelly Cup finals, 3-1, after four games, but were forced to travel back to Alaska for Game 6 after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Aces in Game 5 at the North Charleston Coliseum. Alaska won Game 6, 3-2, to force a Game 7. It was only the second Game 7 in Kelly Cup finals history. Trent Campbell’s goal with 8:54 to play in the third period turned out to be the game-winner. Pierre-Luc O’Brien, who assisted on Campbell’s goal, would get an empty-net goal with 24 seconds to play to secure the victory.
What they said: “Trent Campbell just never gave up on the play,” said then-South Carolina head coach Jared Bednar. “He just has a knack for stepping up in big moments.”
Who: Maxime Lacroix
Opponent: Gwinnett Gladiators
Series: Game 4 of the best-of-five Eastern Conference quarterfinals
Date: April 25, 2012
Location: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Ga.
Final score: Stingrays 4, Gwinnett 3 (2OT)
The Scenario: The Gladiators came into the series as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the Stingrays were the seventh seed. The Stingrays had won the previous game, 4-3, in quadruple overtime on Zach Tarkir’s goal. It was the second-longest game in ECHL history at 124 minutes and 19 seconds. Lacroix got the series-clincher in Game 4 off a beautiful pass from Chris Higgins.
What they said: “In the playoffs, your best players have to be your best players and there’s no doubt that Maxime Lacroix was the best player on the ice tonight,” said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery.
Who: Dave Seitz
Opponent: Trenton Titans
Series: Game 1 of the best-of-seven Kelly Cup Finals
Date: May 18, 2001
Location: Sovereign Bank Arena, in Trenton, N.J.
Final score: Stingrays 3, Trenton 2 (OT)
The Scenario: The opening game of the 2001 Kelly Cup finals against heavily favored Trenton, which had the best record (50-18-4, 104 points) in the ECHL during the regular season. With the game tied at 2-2, forward Zach Ham got the puck behind the net and sent it out front to Seitz. The puck was deflected and Seitz “baseball batted” it out of midair into the net for the game-winner. Seitz would go on to score three game-winning goals in the series as the Stingrays won their third Kelly Cup and Seitz was named the MVP.
What they said: “Fourteen years later, I can still see the puck and Dave Seitz hitting it out of mid-air. Unbelievable goal and to be honest, that was the series right there,” said Trenton captain Cail MacLean, who would later play and coach for the Stingrays.
Who: Jason Hehr
Opponent: Pensacola Ice Pilots
Series: Game 3 of the best-of-five ECHL semifinals
Date: April 27, 1997
Location: Pensacola Civic Center, Pensacola, Fla.
Final score: Stingrays 6, Pensacola 5 (OT)
The Scenario: The Stingrays squandered a three-goal lead in the third period as Pensacola tied the game up at 5-5 on Brent Gretzky’s (the younger brother of Wayne Gretzky) goal with 48 seconds to play in regulation. Stingrays head coach Rick Vaive had been ejected from the game after Gretzky’s goal. Hehr’s game-winner came after a turnover by Chris Rowland and a pass from (now Stingrays president) Rob Concannon to Hehr. Jason Fitzsimmons, who was the Kelly Cup Playoff MVP that year, made 51 saves as the Ice Pilots recorded 56 shots on goals.
What they said: “Rob gave me a perfect pass and I just stepped into it,” Hehr said. “I watched it squeeze through (Pensacola goalie Sean Gautheir) pads. I was so excited I skated to the other end of the rink.”
Who: Joe Devin
Opponent: Reading Royals
Series: Game 7 of the best-of-seven East Division semifinals
Date: April 29, 2015
Location: North Charleston Coliseum.
Final score: Stingrays 3, Reading 2
The Scenario: Trailing 2-0 heading into the third period, the Stingrays rallied for three goals over the final 20 minutes. Devin scored both the tying goal and the game-winner, the latter coming with 3:28 to play. Devin scooped up a loose puck after a defenseman Marcus Perrier shot and back-handed it under the blocker of Reading goalie Connor Knapp for the game-winner.
What they said: “I was just trying to put someone on net and luckily it went under his blocker,” Devin said. “It was an amazing game. I’ve never been a part of something like this, getting the game-winner in a Game 7. It’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
Who: Nikita Kashirsky
Opponent: Florida Everblades
Series: Game 5 of the best-of-seven South Division finals
Date: May 4, 2009
Location: North Charleston Coliseum
Final score: Stingrays 4, Florida 3
The Scenario: The Everblades were heavy favorites to win their first Kelly Cup title, winning the Brabham Cup with the best record in the ECHL (49-17-5, 103 points). With the series tied at 2-2, the Stingrays trailed 3-0 midway through the second period in Game 5. Maxime Lacroix scored with less than four minutes to play to tie the game at 3-3. In the final minute of the game, the Everblades were trying to clear the puck out of the Stingrays’ zone along the boards when South Carolina captain Brad Farynuk somehow managed to keep it in. The puck bounced off Everblades defenseman Brad Zannon and onto the stick of Kashirsky. Kashirsky stepped past Zannon, got into the slot and, falling down, got a wrist shot that beat Florida goalie David Leggio for the score.
What they said: “It was a great play by (Farynuk) to keep the puck in,” Kashirsky said. “I think their defenseman decided to take a chance and help out. The puck came back to me and I tried to make a move, and when I felt like I didn’t have any more room, I decided to put it on net and it went in as I was falling down.”