After splitting a pair of games last weekend to begin the 2021 calendar year, the South Carolina Stingrays return to North Charleston this week to open a 5-game homestand. The stretch begins with a weekend series against the Wheeling Nailers, which represents South Carolina’s first games outside the South Division during the 2020-21 season. Now holding a 3-1-0 record this season away from home, the Stingrays sit in second place in the division with 10 points after their first seven games.
The Rays and Nailers will meet this week for the first time since November of 2018, a start of five matchups during the month of January. The clubs are two of the longest tenured teams in the ECHL but have only played each other 24 times in their history during the regular season. Overall, SC has an all-time record of 12-11-1 against Wheeling during regular season play.
STINGRAYS RECORD:4-1-2-0LAST WEEK: 1-1-0-0
FRIDAY: GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITS 3, SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 1(Bon Secours Wellness Arena – Greenville, SC)The Greenville Swamp Rabbits got ahead in the first period and never trailed on their way to handing the South Carolina Stingrays their first regulation loss of the 2020-21 season by a final score of 3-1 on Friday afternoon at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Cole Ully netted the lone tally for South Carolina in the contest, while goaltender Hunter Shepard got the start and kept the Rays in the game with 24 saves.
SATURDAY: SOUTH CAROLINA STINGRAYS 3, JACKSONVILLE ICEMEN 2(VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena – Jacksonville, FL)Goals from three different forwards and a standout relief effort from goaltender Alex Dubeau gave the South Carolina Stingrays a 3-2 win over the Jacksonville Icemen on Saturday night at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Dubeau, who came into the game after an injury to starting netminder Hunter Shepard midway through the opening period, turned aside 18 shots to earn the first victory of his career with South Carolina. Forward Cole Ully led the way for the Rays with a goal and an assist, while linemate Max Novak picked up two helpers in the contest.THIS WEEKFriday, January 8 – vs. Wheeling Nailers, 7:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)Saturday, January 9 – vs. Wheeling Nailers, 6:05 p.m. (North Charleston Coliseum)STINGRAYS LEADERSGoals: 3 – Cole Ully, Caleb HerbertAssists: 5 – Max NovakPoints: 7 – Cole UllyPlus/Minus: Plus-6 – Macoy Erkamps, Cole UllyPenalty Minutes: 18 – Macoy ErkampsShots On Goal: 23 – Caleb HerbertWins: 2 – Hunter ShepardGoals Against Average: 2.07 – Hunter ShepardSave Percentage: 0.928 – Hunter Shepard
ULLY TAKES OVER TEAM SCORING LEADForward Cole Ully scored goals in each of the Stingrays’ games last weekend and now leads the club with three tallies and seven points during the 2020-21 year. His strike on Friday was the lone goal for the Stingrays during the loss to Greenville, while Saturday’s goal gave SC a 2-1 advantage in the middle frame. The Calgary, Alberta native is in his second season with the Rays after posting 48 points in 53 games during 2019-20 on 12 goals and 36 assists.
DEFENSIVE ARMOR REMAINS STRONGThrough their first seven games of the season, South Carolina is at the top of the ECHL’s defensive rankings, allowing just 2.14 goals per game. The group has been led by their goaltenders, which included two more excellent performances last weekend. Hunter Shepard was strong in a losing effort Friday, while Alex Dubeau was needed in relief on Saturday and earned his first Stingrays win with 18 saves. 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.
CLOSE CALLSThrough the first four weekends of the 2020-21 season, SC has seen five of their seven games decided by just one goal. The Rays hold a 3-0-2 record in such contests, earning points from each of them. One of those wins came in a shootout over Greenville, while the other two were earned against Jacksonville on Dec. 18 and Jan. 2.
NOVAK CONTINUES GENERATING OFFENSEForward Max Novak had three assists in the Rays' two games last weekend, helping to set up three of the club's four goals in the two outings. The attacker has totaled six points in seven games this season on a goal and five helpers. The Union College alum is in his second season with South Carolina after totaling 51 points last year on 15 goals and 36 assists.
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