Eastern Conference Finals Preview

Eastern Conference Finals (Best of Seven)

South Carolina Stingrays vs. Wheeling Nailers
Series Matchup Sheet

South Carolina and Wheeling meet in the Kelly Cup Playoffs for the third time in the last six years to determine the Eastern Conference representative in the 2016 Kelly Cup Finals. The Nailers have won the two previous postseason meetings between the clubs, 3 games to 1 in the 2011 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals and 4 games to 0 in the 2014 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

The Stingrays, who have captured a league record-tying three championships (1997, 2001 and 2009), return to the Conference Finals for the second consecutive season and for the fifth time in team history. South Carolina has reached the third round with a 4 games to 1 win over Kalamazoo in the Conference Quarterfinals and a 4 games to 3 win over Adirondack in the Conference Semifinals. Against the Thunder, the Stingrays won Games 6 and 7 on home ice, with Joe Devin scoring the series-clinching goal in double overtime of Game 7. The Stingrays allowed 2.25 goals per game in the regular season, tied for the ECHL lead, and the team’s 2.08 goals-against per game in the playoffs leads the league. South Carolina also allowed a league-low 26.81 shots per game in the regular season and paces the playoffs with 24.17 shots-against per game.

Devin leads all players in the playoffs with nine goals, and is tied for the postseason lead with three game-winning goals. Mark Dekanich leads all goaltenders in the postseason with a 1.69 goals-against average in 10 games while ECHL All-Rookie Team selection Vitek Vanecek ranks sixth with a 2.23 goals-against average in four appearances.

Wheeling is in the Conference Finals for the first time since 2011 and for the third time in team history. The Nailers defeated Florida 4 games to 2 in the Conference Quarterfinals, winning the final three games of the series, and eliminated Reading 4 games to 3 in the Conference Semifinals with wins in Games 6 and 7, including an overtime victory in the decisive seventh game. Wheeling has scored a playoff high 43 goals and ranks fifth with 3.31 goals per game while its 35.54 shots per game is second.

Riley Brace, who scored the overtime game-winning goal in Game 7 against Reading, leads the Nailers with 14 points (4g-10a) while Mathew Maione, the ECHL Defenseman of the Year, leads all blueliners in the playoffs with 13 points (5g-8a). John McCarron leads rookies in the playoffs with 12 points (5g-7a) while Cody Wydo paces first-year players with six goals.

The two teams split a pair of games in Wheeling during the regular season. Zack Torquato led Wheeling in the season series with two goals and three points while Stephan Vigier led South Carolina with two goals and four points.

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 13 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina
Game 2 – Saturday, May 14 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina
Game 3 – Wednesday, May 18 at 7:05 p.m. ET at Wheeling
Game 4 – Friday, May 20 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Wheeling
Game 5 – Saturday, May 21 at 7:35 p.m. ET at Wheeling (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Monday, May 23 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Tuesday, May 24 at 7:05 p.m. ET at South Carolina (If Necessary)