Entering the opening round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the Florida Everblades were the favourite to win the Kelly Cup, as they previously became Brabham Cup Champions, however, we saw a stunning first-round upset, as the South Carolina Stingrays advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. They did so after winning game 5 by a final score of 3-2.
This is the fourth time these two teams have met in the playoffs in 16 years, and the Stingrays have bested them in all four of those matchups. South Carolina will have home advantage in the next series, as they will host the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in games one, four and five.
Cole Ully Plays Hero In Game 5 For Stingrays
The Everblades needed to start off Game 5 strong after falling behind early in games 3 and 4 respectively. That’s what they did for the first 15 minutes of the opening period before South Carolina broke open the scoring, courtesy of Dylan Steman. The centreman put the Stingrays on the board, netting the puck on a backhand that would beat Jake Hildebrand. Over the past few games, Florida has had issues on the special teams, but that was the strong suit for the Everblades on Tuesday, as Alex Kile would feed Joe Pandenza, who found the back of the net on the team’s first power play of the night. However, that lead wouldn’t hold for long, as Cole Ully, less than six minutes later, re-gained the lead for South Carolina.
From there, it appeared as if South Carolina would would carry that lead into the third and final period. In the dying minutes, however, Florida would be gifted another power play, which saw Cameron Hebig fire a one-timer past Hunter Shepard with less than 30 seconds remaining. Late period goals have always seemed to favour the teams that score them, and it looked like the tide had finally swung in the direction of the Everblades, as that was the case to break open the final frame.
This wouldn’t last in the end, as with 8:17 left on the clock, Ully would find the back of the net and give the Stingrays a lead in which they wouldn’t look back on. Despite the loss, Everblades Head Coach Brad Ralph said his team would leave Hertz Arena with their heads held high. Florida had no reason not to, as the team as a whole, played one of their strongest of the series. The power play was working well and Jake Hildebrand was making great saves to keep his team in the game. It’s the year of the underdog and we’ve seen this all across playoff hockey this season. Sadly, on Tuesday night, the Everblades became another victim of this trend.