PENSACOLA, Fla. – Mike Wirll netted a hat trick to propel the Pensacola Ice Pilots past the South Carolina Stingrays 7-4 at the Pensacola Civic Center.
“That showed our players that any team can win on any given night in the ECHL,” South Carolina coach Jason Fitzsimmons said. “We can’t give up huge early leads to the opposition and expect to claw our way back. We have a long 10-hour bus ride facing us. It will give the guys plenty of time to think about the home games coming up on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.”
Pensacola (9-20-2, 20 points) jumped in front at the 1:55 mark of the first period. Travis Lisabeth fed Wirll, who beat goaltender Davis Parley to make it 1-0 for the Ice Pilots.
Former Stingrays forward John Hecimovic, who was playing his third game for Pensacola, came back to haunt his former team by tallying his first goal of the season at 3:30 set up by Dwayne Hay and David Wrigley.
Lisabeth netted his 11th of the season at 6:53 of the first to give the Ice Pilots a 3-0 lead. Assists went to Sergei Ogorodnikov and Wirll.
South Carolina (16-14-2, 34 points) got on the board with a shorthand goal from Ryan Bennett, who snapped a shot from the left circle past netminder Ben Gray. Cam McCaffrey picked up a helper.
Evan Schwabe closed the gap to within one at 3:15 of the second period by taking a breakaway pass from Matt W. Reid and burying his ninth goal of the campaign.
Pensacola’s ECHL All-Star Game representative Rob Rankin regained the Ice Pilots two-goal lead to make it 4-2 at 5:51 by potting his 10th marker of the season from Dallas Steward.
Donny Grover cut the margin to 4-3 on the power play, netting a backhand shot for his fifth tally of the year at 13:13 from Schwabe.
However the Ice Pilots’ Ogorodnikov counted his third goal of the season at 15:45 of the middle stanza to give Pensacola a 5-3 lead through 40 minutes of action. Wirll and Lisabeth collected the helpers.
Scott Romfo got the Stingrays within one for the third time in the game converting a pass from Peter Szabo to count his third goal of the year at 4:46 of the third. Chris Chaput also garnered an assist.
Stingrays pressed for the equalizer, but the Ice Pilots countered and Wirll notched his second of the game with 1:45 remaining in regulation from Lisabeth and then completed the hat trick by scoring into an empty-net with nine seconds left in the game.
South Carolina converted on 1-of-4 power play chances, while Pensacola went 0-for-4 with the man advantage. Ice Pilots outshot the Stingrays 40-37.
The Stingrays return home for a 7:05 p.m. game on Thursday against Pensacola at the North Charleston Coliseum for a game that was originally scheduled on January 9. It’s Frozen Gopher Night, which features representatives from professional golf associations and the Dunkin’ Donuts Million Dollar Chuck-A-Puck.
Catch live play-by-play action with Mike Kelly, “Voice of the Stingrays” on ESPN Radio 910 The Team and online at www.stingrayshockey.com beginning at 6:50 p.m. with the Benito’s Pregame Show. Watch the game live on the web telecast for $6 each at www.stingrayshockey.com, courtesy of B2 Networks.
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