By John Devlin
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Columbia took a 2-0 lead in its first round ECHL Kelly Cup playoff series against Charlotte with a 4-2 win Friday at the Carolina Coliseum.
The Inferno will be looking to close out the best-of-five series Saturday in Charlotte.
“It was a good to up 2-0, but I’m not very pleased with the lack of discipline we showed,” said Inferno coach Scott White. “We gave them six power plays in the first two periods, and that’s just too many against a good offensive squad. Fortunately, our goalie (Mike Minard) was our best penalty killer and that saved us.”
Minard turned away 24 of 26 Charlotte shots last night and is 47-for-49 in the series.
A goal by Eric Boulton (pictured) at 16:06 of the second period, set up by a pass from Brad Ralph, was the game-winning score. It came just 77 seconds after Charlotte’s Ryan Glenn tied the score at 2 with a power play blast from the left point.
Boulton’s score came in his first playoff game at any level in five years. The NHL veteran winger sat out the first game of the series while serving a one-game suspension.
“The first two years I was in Buffalo we made the Stanley Cup playoffs, but I didn’t dress,” said the 29-year-old Nova Scotia native.
“So it was fun to get out and compete again during the best time of the season.”
Boulton, a fourth-line tough guy in four seasons with the Sabres, has become a major offensive contributor in Columbia, scoring 23 goals in 48 regular season games.
“I don’t want to get too far away from my role, but it’s been fun getting so much more ice time here and being able to contribute in other ways,” he said.
Ralph and defenseman Sean Owens finished with a goal and an assist. Ralph leads the Inferno with a goal and two assists in the series.
The Inferno trailed 1-0 at the end of the first period, managing only five shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. But a shorthanded goal by Walker McDonald, set up by a pass from Matt Ulwelling, tied the scored and changed the flow of the game.