Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Eastern Conference Finals (Best of Seven)

Toledo Walleye vs. South Carolina Stingrays
Series Matchup Sheet

Teams that have combined to win five of the ECHL’s 26 championships meet in the postseason for the first time as Toledo and South Carolina meet for the Eastern Conference championship.

Toledo is appearing in the Conference Finals for the first time since the Toledo Storm advanced in 2006. The Storm won Riley Cup championships in 1993 and 1994 – the last ECHL team to win back-to-back titles – while also advancing to the playoff semifinals in 1996.

South Carolina has captured a league record-tying three championships, claiming Kelly Cup titles in 1997, 2001 and 2009, and is appearing in the Conference Finals for the fifth time.

Toledo has reached this point with a pair of seven-game victories, defeating Wheeling in the North Division Semifinals and Fort Wayne in the North Division Finals. Each of the Walleye’s four wins against Fort Wayne came at home, as the club has gone 5-2 at Huntington Center in the Kelly Cup Playoffs after posting an ECHL-best 26-6-4 mark on home ice during the regular season. Toledo won the Brabham Cup as ECHL regular-season champion after posting a League record 58-point improvement over the 2013-14 season. Toledo is led in the postseason by Shane Berschbach who leads all players in the playoffs with 19 points (6g-13a). Troy Schwab has added 16 points (7g-9a) and his seven goals are tied for second overall in the playoffs. Jeff Lerg, who was named to the All-ECHL Second Team, is tied for second in the playoffs with seven wins while ranking sixth with a 2.14 goals-against average and third with a .930 save percentage. Neil Conway has gone 1-1 in his two appearances and is fifth with a 2.07 goals-against average and leads the postseason with a .946 save percentage.

After defeating Reading in seven games in the East Division Semifinals, South Carolina advanced to the Conference Finals with a 4 games to 2 win over Florida in the East Division Finals. The Stingrays set an ECHL record during the regular season with a 23-game winning streak from Feb. 7-March 27, with the final win of the streak coming in a 5-3 victory at Toledo. South Carolina led the ECHL in the regular season with 25 road wins, and the strong play away from home has carried over to the postseason where the Stingrays have gone 5-1 on the road, including wins in all three games at Florida in the previous round. Joe Devin leads all players in the postseason with eight goals while Wayne Simpson ranks second with 18 points (6g-12a). Jeff Jakaitis, who won his second consecutive ECHL Goaltender of the Year award while also capturing League Most Valuable Player honors, leads the postseason with eight wins and has posted a 2.55 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage in 13 appearances.

This series is also a match-up of the last two winners of the ECHL Coach of the Year as South Carolina’s Spencer Carbery captured the award last season and Toledo’s Derek Lalonde was this year’s honoree.

The two teams met four times in the regular season, with three of the meetings taking place at South Carolina, with the road team winning each game. Kyle Bonis led Toledo in the season series with six points (3g-3a) while South Carolina was led by Derek DeBlois who posted four points (2g-2a).

The winner of the Eastern Conference Finals receives the E.A. “Bud” Gingher Memorial Trophy. The trophy is named in recognition of E.A. “Bud” Gingher, who was Chairman of the ECHL Board of Governors from 1992-95. Gingher, who passed away in 2002, co-founded the Dayton Bombers in 1991 and owned the team for seven seasons, serving as President and Governor until selling the team in 1998. Gingher was inducted into the ECHL Hall of Fame in 2009.

Game 1 – Friday, May 15 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo
Game 2 – Saturday, May 16 at 8:05 p.m. ET at Toledo
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 20 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina
Game 4 – Friday, May 22 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina
Game 5 – Saturday, May 23 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Tuesday, May 26 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Wednesday, May 27 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Toledo (If Necessary)