NORTH CHARLESTON, SC–The South Carolina Stingrays’ and goaltender Ryan Zapolski dropped a tough 2-1 overtime game last night before 5,158 fans at the North Charleston Coliseum to the visiting Ft. Wayne Komets.
The Komets won behind the goaltending of former National Hockey League goalie Jeff Deslauriers who swept aside 25 shots as defenseman Nick Schaus scored with four minutes expired in overtime.
Meanwhile, the home team got equally as good goaltending as Zapolski matched his more experienced counterpart in the loss stopping 29 shots on goal.
The Komets are one of the most storied franchises in minor league professional hockey. They played for years in the old International Hockey League and joined the ECHL this season after a stint in the Central Hockey League. They are traditionally one of the best drawing clubs in home attendance in minor pro sports.
The single point captured by the ‘Rays has them in sixth place overall in their ECHL Eastern Conference race with about a month left in the regular season. The top eight teams in the conference will advance to the playoffs. South Carolina has missed the playoffs only once in their 20 years of existence.
Saturday night’s duel was almost a repeat of Friday night in reverse.
On Friday, Zapolski beat the Komets and Deslauriers, a veteran of over 60 NHL games, 2-1 in a shootout.
The almost 8,500 fans who watched the weekend series were treated to two evenly matched and outstanding goaltenders. This in turn produced two straight exciting matches. Both goalies made save after save across the two games that on most nights would have eluded most net minders. Zapolski was recently honored as ECHL Goal Tender of the Week on February 26, 2013.
The Komets opened the scoring in the first period when forward Jean-Michel Rizk deflected a shot from the point by Tyler Butler. The defenseman on the other point Jeremy Gates was credited with the secondary assist. Patrick Gaul evened the score for South Carolina with an early second period strike using a wrist shot at the 5:22 mark. He was set up by a beautiful pass from Chris Langkow who drew the lone assist on the play.
Neither team took advantage of their power play opportunities as they combined to scoreless on seven opportunities. The 1-1 tie forged by Gaul survived for almost 40 minutes. The two goalies made save after save over the balance of the second period and staged a scoreless duel in the third period before Schaus broke most of the hearts among one the larger crowds of seasons.
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