There truly is no place like the road for the South Carolina Stingrays, especially during the ECHL’s Kelly Cup playoffs.
The bigger the crowd, the more hostile the environment, the better the Stingrays have played in the postseason. The Stingrays are 5-1 away from North Charleston Coliseum — the most road wins of any team in the playoffs — as they head into the Eastern Conference finals against the Toledo Walleye for Game 1 Friday night at the Huntington Center in Ohio.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday night at Toledo.
Not only have the Stingrays won four straight road playoff games, but they have been a far superior team when traveling outside the Lowcountry as opposed to playing at the coliseum. The Stingrays have a goal differential of plus-10 — 26 goals for, 16 goals against — in their six road playoff games. The power play is also clicking along at 27.8 percent (five power play goals in 18 chances). The Stingrays beat Florida all three times, including a series-clinching 5-2 win in Game 6 on Monday night at Germain Arena in Estero, Fla.
“We love the challenge of going into another building, into a place where the fans are all against us, and coming out with a win,” said Stingrays captain Andrew Rowe. “This is a very experienced bunch, a mature group of guys, even the rookies, and we just love the challenge and having our backs up against the wall. I think we kind of thrive in that environment. It brings out the best in us.”
The fact that the Stingrays are the top road team during the playoffs should come as no surprise. They did the same thing during the regular season, leading the ECHL with 25 road victories.
“I just think we’re very comfortable when we are playing on the road,” said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “There are fewer distractions and the guys can focus on the task at hand.”
The Stingrays. meanwhile, have been a mediocre team at best when playing at the North Charleston Coliseum during the postseason. The Stingrays are just 3-4 at home and have a goal differential of minus-6 — 16 goals for as opposed to 22 goals against — in seven games. Even the Stingrays’ power play has been weak, converting at just 14.3 percent.
“To be honest, I’m not sure I have an explanation for that,” Rowe said. “I think our approach is the same no matter where we are playing. I think we’ve just gotten a few more bounces on the road than we have at home.”
Like Rowe, Carbery is a little baffled by the Stingrays’ struggles at home the last six weeks.
“I think we play a simple game,” Carbery said. “We make good decisions with the puck, we make the simple plays. We’re a blue collar team that works extremely hard and that’s going to help you on the road. I think at home, for some reason, there have been times when we’ve tended to get away from that style of play.”
The Stingrays are 1-2-1 against the Walleye this season with their only victory coming at the Huntington Center on March 27. South Carolina rallied from a 3-2 third period deficit to beat the Walleye, 5-3, for its ECHL-record 23rd straight victory in the process. Toledo’s 26 home wins were tied with Fort Wayne for the most home victories in the ECHL during the regular season.
“Toledo probably has the loudest building in the league,” Rowe said. “Their fans were all over us and we found a way to win. That game definitely had a playoff atmosphere. I think that win and beating Florida at their place three times in the last series should help us during this series.”