Stingrays Advance to Kelly Cup Finals

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Posted June 21, 2021

photo via the Stingrays

The South Carolina Stingrays were on the outside of the playoffs looking in with six games left in the regular season. One month later, they clinched a spot in the Kelly Cup Final following a 2-1 win over their in-state rival Greenville Swamp Rabbits with a 3-1 series win. 

The two Palmetto State rivals played a scoreless first 20 minutes with the Swamp Rabbits in control of the game. Rookie goalie Hunter Shepard was once again a rock for the Rays giving his team to find their footing. He saved a penalty shot early in the second, which was just one of nine early shots for the visitors in the middle frame. Shepard would finish the night with 29 saves.

The tide would soon shift when Stingrays captain Andrew Cherniwchan was hit late by Garrett Thompson. Thompson was given a major for charging and the Rays would capitalize.

On the power play, Matthew Weiss  scored to put the Rays up 1-0. All of a sudden, the Rays were 31:17 away from an Eastern Conference title. Twelve minutes later, the score was the same and fans at the Carolina Ice Palace could start to sense the opportunity that was a period away. But the margin for error was razor thin. 

Four minutes into the third period, Max Novak scored to extend that margin to two goals. The two-goal lead lasted all of 35 seconds before the Swamp Rabbits cut the lead back to one.

In the end, it wouldn’t matter as Shepard slammed the door and propelled the Rays to their first Kelley Cup Finals appearance since 2017. They will play the winner of the Fort Wayne Komets and the Allen Americans for the Kelley Cup. Regardless of opponent, the Stingrays announced that Games 1 and 2 will be Carolina Ice Palace starting on Friday at 7:05 followed by Game 2 on Sunday at 6:05.