Excellent defense and goaltending propelled the South Carolina Stingrays to a sweep of a home-and-home series with the Jacksonville Icemen last weekend, earning themselves four points in the standings. SC took a first period lead in both contests and never looked back, holding Jacksonville to just two total goals during the series. The Rays have gotten off to a good start and sit in second place in the South Division with five points after their first three contests.
South Carolina will play a home-and-home series with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits this week, starting Saturday on the road in the upstate before returning to the Lowcountry for a Sunday afternoon matchup. Greenville has started the season 1-3-0 after falling victim to a sweep at the hands of the first-place Florida Everblades last weekend.
STINGRAYS RECORD:2-0-1-0LAST WEEK: 2-0-0-0
FRIDAY: SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 2, JACKSONVILLE ICEMEN 1(VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena – Jacksonville, FL)Goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 31 shots to earn his first professional victory as the South Carolina Stingrays defeated the Jacksonville Icemen 2-1 on Friday night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. The win was the first of the season for South Carolina, as well as the first ECHL victory for head coach Ryan Blair. Forward Caleb Herbert scored for the second time in as many games, while defender Max Gottlieb added an insurance tally in the third that turned out to be the game winner.
SATURDAY: SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 5, JACKSONVILLE ICEMEN 1(North Charleston Coliseum – North Charleston, SC)Five different scorers and 35 saves from goaltender Zach Fucale gave the South Carolina Stingrays a 5-1 victory over the Jacksonville Icemen on Teddy Bear Toss Night Saturday at the North Charleston Coliseum. Linemates Justin Florek, Mason Morelli and Andrew Cherniwchan each had multi-point nights for the Stingrays in the win, while Cole Ully and Dylan Steman also added tallies. For all of the five goal scorers, the tally was their first of the season.THIS WEEKSaturday, December 26 – at Greenville Swamp Rabbits, 7 p.m. (Bon Secours Wellness Arena)Sunday, December 27 – vs. Greenville Swamp Rabbits, 3:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)STINGRAYS LEADERSGoals: 2 – Caleb HerbertAssists: 3 – Cole UllyPoints: 4 – Cole UllyPlus/Minus: Plus-5 –Cole Ully, Macoy ErkampsPenalty Minutes: 9 – Macoy ErkampsShots On Goal: 11 – Caleb HerbertGoals Against Average: 1.00 – Zach FucaleSave Percentage: 0.972 – Zach Fucale
ULLY STARTS STRONGForward Cole Ully registered assists on both of his team’s goals in SC’s opening night contest against Greenville and kept rolling in the sweep over Jacksonville last weekend. The Calgary, Alberta native picked up an assist on Caleb Herbert’s first period tally in Friday’s win, then added his first goal of the season to kick off the scoring in Saturday’s victory. Ully is in his second season with the Stingrays after posting 48 points in 53 games during 2019-20 on 12 goals and 36 assists.
GOTTLIEB MAKING HIMSELF AT HOMEDefenseman Max Gottlieb found the scoresheet twice in his first two games with the Stingrays, scoring a goal and an assist. The Old Bridge, N.J. native had a helper in the team’s season opener Dec. 11, then scored the game-winning goal in the third period Friday to help give SC their first victory. Gottlieb has also earned a +1 rating in all three of the team’s contests so far during the 2020-21 season.
FUCALE IMPRESSES IN SC DEBUTIn his first start of the season, goaltender Zach Fucale stopped 35 shots to earn a victory Saturday night over Jacksonville. The netminder was solid all night for the Rays, holding the Icemen off the scoreboard until the final seven minutes of the contest while making several highlight-reel saves. Fucale, a native of Laval, Quebec, is on an NHL contract with the Washington Capitals in his sixth professional year.
DOUBLING DOWN ON DEFENSEThrough their first three games of the season, South Carolina ranks first in the ECHL defensively, allowing a league-low 1.67 goals per game. They’ve immediately picked up where they left off in 2019-20, when the Rays finished as the shortened campaign as the best defensive team in the league, allowing an average of just 2.37 goals per game.
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