BY: Ray Schmitt, Voice of the Greenville Road Warriors
The Greenville Road Warriors locked up home ice for the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs by beating the South Carolina Stingrays 4-3 at the BI-LO Center on Tuesday night. The win improved Greenville to 41-23-6 on the season.
Brandon Wong became the first player in Road Warriors history, and the fifth player in the ECHL this season, to reach the 30 goal plateau with a shot from a ridiculous angle. Perched just below the goal line on the left wing he banked a shot off of goalie Billy Sauer and in to lift Greenville to a 1-0 lead at 6:20. Blake Parlett and Bretton Cameron assisted. Greenville was given a golden opportunity to double the lead with a 40-second 5-on-3 power play a few minutes later but was unable to convert. Once back at full strength, the Stingrays mounted an attack. They launched seven shots Jason Missiaen’s way over the final half of the stanza, but couldn’t find the equalizer. Missiaen stopped 12 shots in all in the first.
The second period featured some fine work on the power play by both squads but the Road Warriors doubled up the Stingrays’ effort and took a two-goal lead into the third. Johann Kroll knotted the score with a wrist shot from the point with 13:06 gone by. Just over a minute later Billy Ryan initiated a collision with Missiaen that earned him an interference minor but also knocked Missiaen out of the game. The Road Warriors didn’t score on the ensuing power play, but Wong (17:28) and Justin Bowers (19:08) tallied on the advantage before the period expired. In relief of Missiaen, Nic Riopel stopped both shots he faced in just over five minutes of work.
South Carolina put together a furious rally early in the third period and picked up a pair of goals to knot the score. Andrew Cherniwchan scored his third as a pro at 8:12 to pull the ‘Rays within one and Billy Ryan potted the tying goal just 1:39 later. The score remained deadlocked until the Road Warriors pulled ahead on Sean Berkstresser’s 12th of the season. Wong tried to lift a backhander under the crossbar on a wraparound but Sauer slid across for the save. Perched on the doorstop, Berkstresser slammed home the rebound for the winning score.
Missiaen stopped 18 of 19 in his time while Riopel earned the win in stopping 11 of 13. The Road Warriors were 2-for-7 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Mark your calendars! The Road Warriors are back at the BI-LO Center for their next home game on Friday, March 30 at 7:35 p.m. against the South Carolina Stingrays. Come out for Fan Appreciation Night. There are great giveaways scheduled throughout the night and the Road Warriors will wear their alternate green jerseys one last time. The jerseys will then be auctioned off live after the game. There are discounted tickets and preferred seating based on availability for any group of 10 or more that books in advance. Call 864-674-PUCK (7825) to book your group outing. Visit Greenvilleroadwarriors.com for more information.
Get ready for the Road Warriors’ run to the Kelly Cup! Discounted playoff packages are on sale right now. With the playoff packages you can pay as you go throughout the playoffs and tickets start as low as $8.50 per game. Call 864-674-PUCK (7825) to get your 2012 Kelly Cup Playoffs tickets reserved today!