There will be no tomorrows after Sunday.
The Allen Americans and South Carolina Stingrays will meet that day at the Allen Event Center in Texas to decide the 2014-2015 ECHL Kelly Cup champion with a 4 p.m. (CDT) puck drop. For the two-time defending CHL President’s Cup champion Americans, a victory would mark the third straight season they will have an opportunity to capture a piece of hockey hardware on home ice.
Sunday’s game will mark only the fourth Game Seven for a championship series in the ECHL’s 27-year history. South Carolina Coach Spencer Carbery was a player on the Stingrays’ team that captured Game Seven on the road at Alaska in 2009. Game Sevens were also played in 1989 and 1999.
Host, South Carolina forced a winner-take-all scenario by defeating the Americans, 4-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night in front of a crowd of nearly 5,000 at North Charleston Coliseum. The Eastern Conference champion Stingrays never trailed, jumping in front on a Marcus Perrier first period goal. The home team led 3-0 after two periods on goals by Joe Devin and Frankie Simonelli. Devin added his second of the night after Vincent Arseneau cut the South Carolina lead to 3-1 early in the 3rd period. Gill 27 saves for the Eastern Conference champion Americans.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do game-plan wise,” said a jubilant Carbery. “We executed it, guys competed, and we were on the puck. It was impressive all the way around.
“Our team gets to play one game for a Kelly Cup championship and not a lot of people can say that,” added Carbery. “It is something to savor and we’re going to go in there guns a blazing. We don’t feel we have an advantage, but we feel comfortable. Their building is going to be full, it’s a tough environment to play in but we are in the dance.”
Americans’ GM-Coach Steve Martinson was not pleased with his team’s effort. “It’s simple to explain the loss tonight – we had way too many unforced turnovers that gave (South Carolina) too many quality scoring opportunities,” Martinson said. “We didn’t have enough guys playing hard enough to win. It’s that simple.
“More important than home ice on Sunday is that we need all hands on deck,” he added. “I’m not sure if we need a motivational speaker or some mirrors, but it’s time for our veteran players to step up for the game of a lifetime.”
The previous evening in Game 5, Allen grabbed its first lead of the series, three games to two when forward Greger Hanson scored 5:25 into overtime for a 3-2 victory. Hanson gained separation from the South Carolina defense after taking a deft pass from defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser and beat goalie Jeff Jakaitis with a wrist shot over his blocker pad for the game-winner.
“(Abelshauser) made an unbelievable play at the blue line,” said Hanson after netting his 12th goal of the playoffs. “I got some room in their zone and was lucky to score.
“We believed we were going to win tonight,” Hanson added after his second overtime game-winner of this postseason. “We controlled the play for much of the night and (goalie Riley Gill) was great again in net. We know they will come out strong tomorrow night, but our mission is to wrap up the series and end it on Wednesday.”
Cheered by nearly 4,200 screaming fans at the North Charleston Coliseum, the Stingrays forced the extra period when forward Wayne Simpson connected on a rebound of Drew MacKenzie’s shot with just under four minutes remaining and extended his ECHL postseason record point total to 38.