Stingrays open with win over Gladiators

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays opened their 20th ECHL season with a 4-3 victory over the visiting Gwinnett Gladiators before 6,413 at the North Charleston Coliseum. The win capped a day of festivities in and around the Coliseum. The fun started with a 2 p.m. game by Stingrays’ alumni, followed by a fan fest on the Coliseum plaza and then opening night.
The big crowd saw only a few familiar faces in Stingrays’ colors as there were only five returning members from last seasons team. Thus, for both the team members and fans it was a time to get acquainted. Some of the roster change over comes from the switch of National Hockey League affiliations. The locals signed a working agreement with the Boston Bruins after a six year relationship with the Washington Capitals ended. Additionally, the National Hockey League lockout has caused a ripple in Boston’s American Hockey League Providence, R.I., affiliate when they recently sent several players down due to their crowded roster.
The first period saw the Gladiators hang tough through two power plays and a barrage of shots and great opportunities in the first half of the period. Then they evened territorial play in the second ten minutes of the game. The momentum shift to the visitors was helped by a number of nice point blank saves by Gwinnett goalie Louis Domingue and a five-on-three power play advantage for the Gladiators. Despite the swing in momentum the scoring stalemate continued as the teams ended the first period deadlocked 0-0.
The scoring drought was broken quickly in the middle period and then some. The two teams combined for five goals with the period ending 3-2 in favor of the Rays. After the visitors failed to score on an early second period power play South Carolina broke the scoring draught at the 5:00 minute mark.
Mike Hamilton enjoyed the first team goal of the new season with hard earned assists going to Tyler McNeely and Matthew Pistilli to put the Rays up 1-0. The lead however lasted just over two minutes as the Gladiators answered at the 7:18 mark. An even strength strike off a quick snap shot from the far side circle by Chris Clackson rifled past rookie goalie Adam Morrison. Kyle Lawson and Rylan Galiardi picked up assists.
The Rays reclaimed the lead 2-1 on a beautiful bit of passing and skating. Returnee Andrew Cherniwchan stepped around the Gwinnett defense and soloed in one-on-one and put a back hander high past Domingue’s glove side. He was set up by an excellent pass out of the zone by Mike Ullrich. This score at 8:40 was followed by the Rays’ third goal as Ullrich picked up his second point in the game on a goal at 11:15. The score came when he shot the puck and it rolled up the goalies’ paddle and found its way into the net. Forward Tyler Randell was credited with the lone assist.
Just as it appeared the home team would skate out of the second period with a two goal lead, a long shot at the 18:15 mark by Kale Kerbashian somehow eluded Morrison and narrowed the lead to 3-2. Doug Jones and Dallas Jackson earned assists.
The Gladiators finally cashed in on a power play just under six minutes into the third period. The 3-3 tying goal came after Morrison appeared to be shaken up in a pileup in his goal crease. The pileup also resulted in a delay of game penalty against Ryan Lowery who shoved the net off its moorings as a way of protecting Morrison. Tyler Murovich combined with Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Ryan Donald for the visitor’s third goal at 5:41 of the final period.
A two man advantage produced the first power play goal and the game winner for South Carolina. McNeely scored at 9:59 as he caught his own rebound in close and lifted it over a sprawling Domingue with two men in the box for Gwinnett. Ryan Turek and Pistilli earned points for the assists.
The 4-3 score and time winding down increased the intensity and action as Gwinnet pressed and tempers flared. A scrum with a round of pushing and shoving at 12:47 escalated into a multiple series of penalties including fighting majors to Justin Courtnall of South Carolina and Ryan Donald of Gwinnett.
On the evening Morrison stopped 35 of 38 shots in his first professional win as Domingue faced 24 shots in the loss. Both teams went one for four on power play opportunities.
Contact the author at Phil.Brand@prohockeynews.com

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