DULUTH, Ga. – On the second last night of the ECHL regular season, the South Carolina Stingrays were eliminated from postseason contention for the first time in the 14-year history of the team after dropping a 4-2 decision to the Gwinnett Gladiators before 6,643 fans at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
South Carolina continues to hold the ECHL record for most playoff appearances and consecutive postseason appearances, having advanced in each of its first 13 seasons.
“It’s tough to take,” South Carolina coach Jason Fitzsimmons said. “Our guys gave everything they had all year long. We are eight games above 500, but sitting in the toughest division in the league, unfortunately our winning record isn’t good enough to make the playoffs. It’s a bitter pill to swallow.”
South Carolina (35-27-9, 79 points) opened the score at 10:34 of the first period. Micheal Haley deposited his third in six games off a feed from Matt Stefanishion beating goaltender Dave Caruso. A helper was also awarded to Marc Busenburg.
Gwinnett (41-23-7, 89 points) tied the score at 1-1 in the second period on the power play. Named to the All-ECHL Rookie Team earlier in the week, Colton Fretter, who made his return to the Gladiators active roster after missing seven weeks with a broken leg, netted his 36th tally of the year and extended his goal streak to six games and point streak to 17 games by beating goaltender Davis Parley. Assists went to Jon Awe and Scott Mifsud.
Just 28 seconds later, Jim Jackson found the back of the net on a shot from the point for his 15th goal of the season at 12:57 from Mike Vigilante and Jamie Milam, who was also named to the All-ECHL Rookie Team.
In the third, Joel Stepp netted a shorthand tally at 10:08 to make it 3-1 for Gwinnett.
Haley went back to work and closed the margin to one, by scoring his second of the night. John Donnelly and Nate Kiser collected assists.
Jackson registered an empty-net goal to end the game with two seconds left in regulation.
South Carolina finished 0-for-6 on the power play, while Gwinnett went 2-for-8 with the man advantage. Shots were tied at 34-34.
The Stingrays return home for the regular season finale, presented by Wendy’s is at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday against the Texas Wildcatters at the North Charleston Coliseum. It’s Fan Appreciation Night featuring a Team Photo Giveaway, presented by Wendy’s. There is free parking and Sea Ray of Charleston is providing an opportunity to “Shoot for a Boat.” In addition, Dunkin Donuts Million Dollar Chuck-A-Puck is taking place and there will be a drawing to win one Washington Capitals team-signed jersey. Plus members from the South Carolina Stingrays 1997 Kelly Cup team will also be in attendance along with the Kelly Cup.
Listen live to Mike Kelly “Voice of the Stingrays” on Real 1340 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.
Individual tickets can be purchased at the North Charleston Coliseum box office, by calling Ticketmaster at (843) 554-6060 and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Discounted groups tickets, birthday packages, Kids Club information and fundraiser opportunities are available by calling (843) 744-2248 or by visiting online at www.stingrayshockey.com. Stingrays Hockey – A Whole Lot Cooler!