The 2021 ECHL Eastern Conference Finals officially got underway on Wednesday night in North Charleston, SC, and it was the Stingrays who walked away victorious in game one with a dominant 5-1 win behind goalie Hunter Shepard, captain Andrew Cherniwchan, as well as forward Max Novak.
Novak got the scoring started for the Stingrays just eight minutes in on the power play, completing a feed from Cole Ully and Justin Florek. Dylan Steman extended that lead just moments later, putting his team up 2-0 on a two-on-one rush. The goal, scored at the 14:14 mark, was assisted by Mark Cooper and Tariq Hammond.
The Stingrays would continue to pour on the goals, as captain Andrew Cherniwchan capitalized on the power play to net one of his own, putting his team up 3-0. Netted five minutes into the second, this would give South Carolina their second power play of the game. Assists on the play were credited to Max Gottlieb and Matthew Weis.
The captain would strike again with seven minutes left in the frame, deflecting in a shot from the point to make 4-0 Stingrays. Steman picked up an assist on the play, his second point of the game, alongside defensemen Tyler Nanne. Moving along to the third, former Stingray Graham Knott, at the 6:26 mark, would break the shutout for Greenville, getting the Swamp Rabbits on the board. While that left room for optimism, it was Max Novak, at the 18:16 mark, who would seal the victory with an empty netter. His second goal of the night handed South Carolina a series opening win.
The Stingrays played lockdown defensemen on the penalty kill, while adding two power play goals and outshooting the Swamp Rabbits 36-27. Greenville goaltender Ryan Bednard was pulled after allowing four goals on the 23 shots he faced. John Lethemon took the ice in relief, where he then made 12 saves in net the rest of the way.
These two teams will now take a road trip to Greenville for games two and three of the series, which will take place Friday and Saturday from the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Puck drop for both contests is currently slated for 7:05pmET. All games are available for viewing and can be streamed with subscriptions using FloSports online.