By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – A year ago, home-ice advantage during the Kelly Cup playoffs turned out to be crucial for the South Carolina Stingrays.
The Stingrays were unbeaten at the North Charleston Coliseum during last year’s run to the ECHL American Conference final — at one point winning 10 straight games in the postseason.
The Stingrays fell to Cincinnati in five games last year, and that was only series the Stingrays didn’t have home ice advantage.
South Carolina won’t have to worry about that this season. The Stingrays will have home-ice advantage when they take on Cincinnati, the defending Kelly Cup champions, on Saturday at the North Charleston Coliseum at 7 p.m.
“You work all season to get home ice, so you want to take advantage of it when you get it,” said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. “Hopefully, having home ice helps us get into the finals this time around.”
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum before the series shifts to U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati for Games 3 and 4 and Game 5, if necessary.
The Stingrays are 5-1 at home during the playoffs this season, with their only loss coming in double overtime against Florida in Game 4 of the South Division finals. The Stingrays are 3-3 on the road, including Tuesday night’s 4-3 series-clinching overtime victory over the Everblades. The Stingrays eliminated the Everblades in six games.
“Last year was last year and we’re a totally different team,” Bednar said. “We’ve been able to go into Charlotte and Florida, two pretty hostile environments, and get a win. This team is confident they can win on the road or at home.”
Bednar said recovering from Tuesday night’s emotional win over the Everblades will be a key for the Stingrays going into Game 1.
“We’re only halfway to our goal,” Bednar said. “We had a great series with Florida and the guys should take a day to enjoy it, but we need to be focused on Cincinnati because they’re the defending champions.”