The South Carolina Stingrays continued their strong start to the 2020-21 season last weekend, earning three of a possible four points from a home-and-home series with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. SC has now earned points from all five of their first games to begin the year. Both contests required extra time, with the Rays prevailing in a shootout Saturday night on the road before falling in overtime Sunday afternoon in North Charleston.
To begin 2021, South Carolina will head back to the upstate for a New Year’s Day matchup with the Swamp Rabbits Friday and then continue to Jacksonville to face the Icemen on Saturday night. Greenville’s two victories in their first six outings have both come against the Rays, while Jacksonville has started the season with a 1-4-0 record.
STINGRAYS RECORD:3-0-2-0LAST WEEK: 1-0-1-0
SATURDAY: SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 3, GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITS 2 SO(Bon Secours Wellness Arena – Greenville, SC)The Stingrays came away victorious from their first shootout of the season, defeating the Greenville Swamp Rabbits by a final score of 3-2 for their third straight win on Saturday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Stingrays forwards Dylan Steman and Mason Morelli scored goals in the win, while goaltender Hunter Shepard picked up his second victory of the year with 29 saves and four straight denials in the shootout.
SUNDAY: GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITS 3, SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 2 OT(North Charleston Coliseum – North Charleston, SC)For the second time this season, defender Ben Finkelstein was at the right place at the right time, scoring in overtime for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits to defeat the South Carolina Stingrays by a 3-2 score on Sunday afternoon at the North Charleston Coliseum. South Carolina goals were scored by linemates Justin Florek and Andrew Cherniwchan in a losing effort, while goaltender Alex Dubeau turned aside 26 shots in his season-debut for the Rays.THIS WEEKFriday, January 1 – at Greenville Swamp Rabbits, 2:05 p.m. (Bon Secours Wellness Arena)Saturday, January 2 – at Jacksonville Icemen, 7 p.m. (VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena)STINGRAYS LEADERSGoals: 2 – Andrew Cherniwchan, Justin Florek, Caleb Herbert, Mason Morelli, Dylan StemanAssists: 3 – Cole UllyPoints: 4 – Andrew Cherniwchan, Caleb Herbert, Mason Morelli, Cole UllyPlus/Minus: Plus-5 – Macoy ErkampsPenalty Minutes: 11 – Macoy ErkampsShots On Goal: 18 – Caleb HerbertWins: 2 – Hunter ShepardGoals Against Average: 1.89 – Hunter ShepardSave Percentage: 0.935 – Hunter ShepardDEFENSIVE PROWESSThrough their first five games of the season, South Carolina ranks third in the ECHL defensively, allowing just 2.0 goals per game. After a stellar performance from goaltender Hunter Shepard on Saturday, Alex Dubeau had a strong showing in his season debut in net on Sunday. The Rays have picked up where they left off in 2019-20, when they finished the shortened campaign as the best defensive team in the league, allowing an average of just 2.37 goals per game.
SHEPARD SETTLING INRookie goaltender Hunter Shepard earned his second straight win with 29 saves on Saturday night in Greenville. In the victory, the netminder lowered his goals-against average to 1.89 while raising his save percentage to 0.935. At the conclusion of his first month in pro hockey, Shepard, a native of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, ranks fifth in the ECHL with 86 total saves, and eighth in the league in GAA.
EXCELLENT ERKAMPSDefender Macoy Erkamps has been a steady presence on the back end for the Stingrays to start the 2020-21 year, earning an even or better rating in all of the team’s five games. The Delta, British Columbia native is tied for fifth in the ECHL with a +5 rating, and has an assist as well as eight shots on net this season. Erkamps, who is in his fifth pro year, spent his previous two seasons with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
KILLING KINGSThe Rays were a perfect 8-for-8 on the penalty kill last week, increasing their early-season killing percentage to 92.3%, which ranks third in the ECHL. After stopping four power play opportunities on Saturday, SC duplicated their perfect performance in Sunday’s game, discarding all the Swamp Rabbits’ four man-advantages. South Carolina is on a streak of 14 straight penalties killed leading into Friday’s game.
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