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Familiar Faces Lead Stingrays Into Game 7

Familiar Faces Lead Stingrays Into Game 7

05/24/2017 - For the South Carolina Stingrays, the ECHL affiliate of the Hershey Bears, it all comes down to tonight. Like their NHL and AHL affiliates, the Stingrays fate will be decided in a Game 7. For the third straight season, the Rays will play a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The decisive game versus the Manchester Monarchs will take place on the road at 7 p.m. this evening at the SNHU Arena. Fans may listen to the game for free on Mixlr, or watch for a fee on ECHL.TV

The Stingrays roster features many names recognizable to Bears fans, including forwards Domenic Monardo and Kelly Zajac, defenders Joey Leach and Steve Weinstein, and goaltender Parker Milner. All four appeared in key games with Hershey this past season and are currently playing big roles in South Carolina's run towards the Kelly Cup.

Monardo, a fan favorite in Hershey for his Old Barn Show interviews and tenacious style, has contributed 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 17 playoff games with the Rays. The 28-year-old skated in 11 games with Hershey this past season, notching three assists. He was the 13th forward during Hershey's run to the Calder Cup Finals in 2016. 

Zajac has once again enjoyed a strong postseason for South Carolina. He has 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 17 games. With the Stingrays last year, Zajac tallied 18 points in 19 playoff games. The former Albany Devil was exceptional with Hershey during his stint with the Bears this year. He posted seven points (four goals, three assists) in nine games with Hershey. He tallied twice, including notching the game-winning goal, in Hershey's 4-2 win over Springfield on Mar. 5.

Leach continues to be South Carolina's most reliable defender. He has collected four points (one goal, three assists) in the playoffs with the Rays. Leach has appeared in 24 games with Hershey, including 18 this year, over the past two seasons. 

Weinstein skated in five games with Hershey this season, notching two assists. He has five assists in seven playoff games for the Rays.

Milner has been South Carolina's MVP in the playoffs so far. He has gone 11-6 with a 2.12 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. The former Boston College star showed signs of brilliance in Hershey this year, going 3-2 with a 2.84 goals against average and a .913 save percentage in five appearances with the Bears. 

South Carolina's roster also features defender Cody Corbett, acquired by Washington from Colorado for Joe Cannata, and injured forward Dylan Margonari, who played two games with Hershey last year. Goaltender Adam Carlson and forward John Parker have both spent time in Hershey despite not appearing in a game with the Bears. 

The Eastern Conference Finals are an odd 3-4 setup, meaning that the Stingrays hosted Games 1-3 at the North Charleston Coliseum before heading to Manchester for four straight games. The Stingrays won the first two games in Manchester to take a 3-2 series lead, but the Monarchs roared back with a 5-1 victory in Game 6. Netminder Sam Brittain, who Hershey faced as a member of the Springfield Thunderbirds, stopped 38 shots. 

The Monarchs roster also featured three former Bears. Most noticeably is Ashton Rome, a member of Hershey's 2010 Calder Cup Championship team. Rome has 11 points (eight goals, three assists) in 18 playoff games for the Monarchs. Defender David Kolomatis, a member of Hershey during the 2013-14 season, plays a key role on Manchester's blue line and has posted six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs. The most recent member of the Bears who now plays for Manchester is defender Colton Saucerman. The bearded blue liner started the season in South Carolina and was signed to a PTO by Hershey on Dec. 31, 2016. He appeared in one game before returning to South Carolina, and eventually being traded to Manchester. 

If South Carolina were to win tonight, they'd advance to the Kelly Cup Finals for the second time in three years. They would play the Colorado Eagles, the ECHL's Western Conference Champion.

The Stingrays have been the benchmark for success since the club's arrival to the ECHL in 1993. In 24 seasons, the team has only missed the playoffs once. The Rays have captured three Kelly Cups (1997, 2001, 2009), a mark tied for the most in ECHL history. The club has been affiliated with the Capitals, and the Bears, from 2004-12, and 2014-present. 

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