Stingrays Playoff Preview: The Beard Strikes Back

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Posted May 10, 2017

He’s no longer a Stingray, but he’s now facing them in the playoffs.

Two months ago, the South Carolina Stingrays traded defenseman Colton Saucerman to the Manchester Monarchs for forward Derek Arnold. Next week, the teams face each other in the ECHL Eastern Conference Finals.

Saucerman found his offensive spark with the Monarchs, matching his goal output (two) and adding six assists in 11 games.

Arnold became a fixture on a normally rough-and-tough third line, putting up nine points and a +2 rating in 12 games with the Stingrays. The UMASS-Lowell alum had a -23 rating in 53 games with Manchester before the trade.

MANCHESTER MONARCHS

The Monarchs limped into the postseason with a 7-11-1-0 record since March 1. Of those seven wins, three came against the dead-last Elmira Jackals.

Since becoming an ECHL franchise in 2015, the Monarchs have won two playoff series, both coming this year. Despite winning the East Division last season, the Adirondack Thunder dispatched them in five games.

They returned the favor this year, sending Adirondack home in six games to open the playoffs, and did the same with the Brampton Beast in round two. Manchester is 4-1 at SNHU Arena during these playoffs, their only loss coming in game five against Brampton.

Matt Leitner, the regular season leading-scorer with 53 points, is tied for third in overall playoff scoring with six goals and seven assists. The Minnesota State – Mankato alum is enjoying his best season since leaving the USHL’s Fargo Force in 2009-10.

In their five games against the Stingrays this season, Cory Ward and Rihards Bukarts scored six points each.

The Monarchs rely on their forwards to produce most of their offense. Colton Saucerman is the team’s top-scoring defender with six points in the playoffs.

Manchester is 3-1 in the playoffs when trailing to begin the third period.

Sam Brittain, a 20-game winner during the regular season, has played all 12 games of the playoffs. With one shutout and one assist to his name, Brittain sits second among remaining goaltenders with a .931 save percentage and a 2.09 goals against average. Stingrays goalie Parker Milner is number one in both categories.

SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS

After starting the Kelly Cup Playoffs 6-0 at the North Charleston Coliseum, the Stingrays will play three more home games to open the Eastern Conference Finals.

This season marks the third consecutive season, and sixth overall year, of making the Conference Finals.

Two lines generate most of South Carolina’s offense. The line with Rob Flick (7-6–13), Domenic Monardo (5-8–13), and Andrew Cherniwchan (5-4–9) came up big against the Florida Everblades last round. Monardo and Cherniwchan both scored double overtime winners. The top line of captain Joe Devin (2-6–8), Kelly Zajac (4-6–10), and Olivier Archambault (2-5–7) matched up against Florida’s checking lines at Germain Arena and saw their effectiveness drop.

Wade Epp leads all Stingrays blueliners with six points, five of them assists. Epp also anchors a strong South Carolina penalty kill, which is tops in the ECHL at 92.4 percent after allowing four goals on 52 times shorthanded.

Flick led all Stingrays in points against the Monarchs in the season series with 10. Monardo had eight, and Steven McParland had four despite playing in only three of those games due to his recall to AHL Chicago.

Patrick Gaul missed the final two games of the Florida series, and enforcer Trevor Gillies slotted in after a slugfest in game two. With Gillies in the lineup, the three subsequent games had one major dust-up each. Defenseman Danny Federico got into the only fight of the three home games, his first ever fight.

Parker Milner is the top goaltender of remaining goalies in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. In each series, he had one major hiccup game, allowing six against Greenville in game one and five to Florida in game two. With a .932 SV% and a 1.83 GAA overall, Milner has only allowed six goals at home.

The Stingrays won three of the five games between them and the Monarchs, including both home contests.

SERIES SCHEDULE

Game 1 – Manchester at South Carolina – Friday, May 12 at 7:05 p.m. (Round 3, Game A)
Game 2 – Manchester at South Carolina – Saturday, May 13 at 7:05 p.m. (Round 3, Game B)
Game 3 – Manchester at South Carolina – Monday, May 15 at 7:05 p.m. (Round 3, Game C)
Game 4 – South Carolina at Manchester – Friday, May 19 at 7:05 p.m.
Game 5* – South Carolina at Manchester – Saturday, May 20 at 6:00 p.m.
Game 6* – South Carolina at Manchester – Sunday, May 21 at 6:00 p.m.
Game 7* – South Carolina at Manchester – Wednesday, May 24 at 7:00 p.m.
*if necessary