An overflow crowd of about 500 season ticket-holders packed the Carolina Ice Palace to see the South Carolina Stingrays’ opening game of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs on Monday night.
The hockey club might consider making the Palace their regular home after the Stingrays pulled off a 3-2 overtime upset of the ECHL’s top team, the Florida Everblades.
Dan Desalvo scored early in the extra period to give the Stingrays a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-five series.
The Stingrays’ usual home ice at the North Charleston Coliseum is not available for the club’s playoff run, with the Coliseum already booked for other events as the ECHL season was pushed back by about two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Stingrays had a season-best 7,375 fans at their final regular-season game last weekend.
Florida opened the scoring as Ben Masella got off a shot that ricocheted off the shoulder of teammate Levko Koper and into the net just 5:22 into the first period. Koper got credit for the goal, with assists going to Masella and Marcus Vela for a 1-0 lead.
After the Everblades were whistled for slashing and cross-checking penalties, the Stingrays drew even with a power-play goal by Matthew Weis, assisted by Dan DeSalvo and Cole Ully, with 10:02 left in the period.
Weis with a beautiful power play goal! pic.twitter.com/G2f6T904Is
— X – SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) June 7, 2021The score remained 1-1 through the second period, with Florida getting 26 shots on goal to 20 for South Carolina. Stingrays goalie Hunter Shepard collected 25 saves through 40 minutes.
But the Everblades went up by 2-1 just 22 seconds into the third period when Michael Neville re-directed a shot, assisted by Vela and Michael Huntebrinker, past Shepard into the net.
The Stingrays came back again when Weis scored his second goal off the draw at 11:28 of the third period, the assist going to Caleb Herbert and the goal forcing overtime.
Matthew Weis ties it AGAIN and grabs his 2nd goal of the night! pic.twitter.com/sDSRbcZJZc
— X – SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) June 8, 2021The series returns to the Carolina Ice Palace on June 9 for Game 2 of the best-of-five series before heading to Florida for the remainder of the series. The series winner goes to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Everblades, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, went 42-19-5-3 in the regular season, with wins in 10 of 13 meetings with the Stingrays, who were 34-23-10-3 in the regular season.
South Carolina is in the playoffs for the 27th time in 28 years, and has won three Kelly Cup titles.
Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC