The South Carolina Stingrays came into the Kelly Cup Playoffs as a number No. 4 seed and were expected to lose in three or four games to the Braham Cup Champion Florida Everblades. Now, after four games, the series is knotted at two, as the Stingrays forced a game five on Monday with a 4-2 victory. South Carolina dropped the previous two games before picking up the victory on Sunday.
Missed Opportunities Hurt Everblades
For a second straight game, the Florida Everblades gave up the opening goal within the first five minutes and once again would find themselves playing from behind. “It’s a lot of work to come from behind,” said Everblades Head Coach Brad Ralph following the final siren. That sentiment stood true, as Florida found themselves down early, seeing Andrew Cherniwchan take charge on a rebound and net it past Jake Hildebrand to put the Stingrays on the board.
South Carolina would add two more goals, including Cherniwchan’s second of the period ten minutes later, as they would take a commanding 3-0 lead with seven minutes to play in the opening frame. Slowly picking up steam, the Everblades would be gifted a golden opportunity to get on the board, as they were handed a five-on-three for 1:34, however, would have nothing to show for it. When asked about the advantage after the game, Coach Ralph said, “Yup, we need to score there.” Fast forward to the second period, Alex Kile would finally get the Blades on the board, receiving a nice pass from Zach Berzolla and netting it past Shepard to make it a 3-1 contest.
Being the goal that gave the Everblades life, Michael Neville would be awarded a penalty shot, however, stopped and poke checked away by Shepard. The missed opportunity would ultimately kill Florida’s momentum. A signifying sign of that, Mark Cooper soon after scored on the breakaway, ending Hildebrand’s night, replaced with the extra attacker. The backstop would end his night having faced 12 shots, allowing in four goals.
With Hildebrand’s night concluding, Devin Colley would take the ice for the Everblades. “The decision is a combination of things,” Coach Ralph said. “You hope you can change momentum, might as well get Hildebrand some rest. Cooley would make 14 saves in his postseason debut.
When asked who he would start in the decider on Monday night, Ralph said he hadn’t decided, but that Florida would likely resort back to Jake. As well, Coach Ralph stated that winning the special teams’ battle and limiting odd-man chances would be the keys to success in the series decider. The winner will play the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, who advanced in four games against the Indy Fuel.