South Division Semifinals • Game 1 • Series tied 0-0
TONIGHT: The Orlando Solar Bears open the South Division Semifinals against the South Carolina Stingrays with Game 1 at the North Charleston Coliseum. This is the first postseason meeting between Orlando and South Carolina. The Solar Bears are making their fourth appearance in the Kelly Cup Playoffs in six seasons and their second consecutive postseason appearance, while the Stingrays are the defending Eastern Conference Champions and are making their 11th consecutive postseason appearance.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: The Solar Bears finished the 2017-18 regular season with a 4-5-0-2 record against South Carolina; Orlando went 3-3-0-2 against the Stingrays in games decided by one goal.
CHAMPIONSHIP EXPERIENCE: The Solar Bears enter the playoffs with four players on their roster with championship experience at the AA level – Kale Kerbashian won back-to-back Central Hockey League titles with Allen in 2013 and 2014, Chris Crane was part of Allen’s back-to-back Kelly Cup championships in 2015 and 2016, and Sam Jardine and Sean Zimmerman helped lead the Colorado Eagles to the Kelly Cup last season.
HEETER TO MAKE POSTSEASON DEBUT: Goaltender Cal Heeter will get the start in net tonight for the Solar Bears to open the series. Heeter, 29, will be making his professional debut in the postseason, after enjoying arguably his best regular season in the ECHL, setting career-highs in games played (43), wins (19) and save percentage (.915) at the AA level. Heeter also logged a .939 save percentage from March 1 through the end of the regular season, the fourth-best in that span among full-time ECHL goaltenders. The goalie went 4-2-1 against the Stingrays during the regular season with a 1.84 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage.
NOVAK LEADS WAY ON POWER PLAY: The Solar Bears will lean heavily on forward Max Novak, who set a single-season franchise record during the 2017-18 regular season with 23 points (8g-15a) scored with the man advantage. Novak also led Orlando with five goals against the Stingrays in the regular season.
SOLAR BEARS UP AGAINST STINGY STINGRAYS: Orlando faces a South Carolina squad that has had a history-making season on the defensive side of the puck. Bolstered in goal by the tandem of All-ECHL First Team goalie Parker Milner and former league MVP Jeff Jakaitis, the Stingrays put together the best defensive season in the league’s 30-year history, allowing an all-time low 153 goals (2.13 goals against per game) over the course of the 2017-18 campaign.
SOLAR BEARS 2017-18 REGULAR SEASON LEADERSPOINTS: Novak – 57GOALS: Novak – 21ASSISTS: Novak – 36+/-: Crane – +9PIM: Monfredo – 148SHOTS: Novak – 191SHOOTING % (Min. 10 games): Kerbashian – 17.02%GAME-WINNING GOALS: Dzierkals – 5
AFFILIATE NOTES: Former Solar Bears goalie Garret Sparks was named the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award yesterday as the AHL’s top goaltender for the season after a record-setting season with the Toronto Marlies (51-18-2-2), in which Sparks has gone 30-9-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage – Toronto returns to action tomorrow in Laval as they face the Rocket. The Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-6-1) open their first-round series with the Boston Bruins tonight at TD Garden.
NEXT GAME: The Solar Bears continue the South Division Semifinals with Game 2 on Saturday, April 14 at 7:05 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
PLAYOFF TICKETS: The Solar Bears will play the South Carolina Stingrays in the South Division Semifinals of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs, and will host the following games at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center:
- Game 3 – Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m.
- Game 4 – Saturday, April 21 at 7 p.m.
- Game 5 – Sunday, April 22 at 6 p.m. (if necessary)
Tickets for the first round of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs are on sale now – fans can purchase tickets starting at $18 through the Amway Center box office or by visiting ticketmaster.com.
About the Orlando Solar Bears:
The Orlando Solar Bears are in their sixth season of operation in the ECHL, the premier “AA” hockey league in North America, and are the proud affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The Solar Bears are owned and operated by the Orlando Magic and the DeVos Family, and play at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center, the 2012 Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year.
Officially licensed Orlando Solar Bears replica team jerseys, apparel, and headwear can be purchased online at orlandosolarbearshockey.com/shop.