NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – The South Carolina Stingrays (27-37-6-0) hot start was too much to handle for the Florida Everblades (40-20-6-4) on Saturday night in a 6-3 victory at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays broke through early in the opening stanza as Matt Anderson recorded his first professional goal for the 1-0 lead. Anderson received a stretch pass from Carter Allen and deked around the Florida defender, protecting the puck until he shoveled it past Parker Gahagan for the advantage.
Jonny Evans doubled the lead a minute and a half later, sniping his fourth goal of the year. Kevin O’Neil broke into the offensive zone and slowed the puck before feeding a streaking Evans, who snapped a shot past Gahagan’s blocker from the right circle.
South Carolina added one more for good measure just over the halfway point in the first period from Cam Strong for the 3-0 advantage. South Carolina sent multiple shots on net before Strong slammed a rebound from the left post past the Florida netminder for his eighth mark of the year.
During the first intermission, the Stingrays inducted alumni forward Patrick Gaul and goaltender Jeff Jakaitis into the Stingrays Hall of Fame, becoming the 18th and 19th members with the honor.
Eight minutes into the second period, Alex Aleardi got Florida on the board with a career-high 30th goal. Aleardi’s shot deflected off a Stingrays stick and knuckled over the shoulder of Hunter Shepard.
Evansdidn’t let it last as he netted his second goal of the contest five and a half minutes later. During a five-on-three power play, Evans pickpocketed a Florida breakout and faked a pass across the ice, opening a lane for his shot to hit twine.
Florida would pull themselves within two goals again thanks to Blake Winiecki’s 31st tally of the season just over three minutes into the final period. Shepard made a stop on the initial shot, but Winiecki broke free and tucked the puck past the post for the goal.
The Stingrays retaliated again only 43 seconds later as Derek Gentile found the back of the net for his 13th goal of the year on his birthday. Jade Miller forced an odd-man rush for South Carolina, sliding a puck to Gentile who set up on the backdoor and slid the puck past the end line.
Winiecki was at it again, trailing into the play late and snipping a shot past the glove of Shepard for his second tally of the game.
For one last time in the game, Kevin Fitzgerald regained the Stingrays three-goal advantage, sending a shot past Gahagen for the 6-3 final less than two minutes later. While shorthanded, Fitzgerald blocked a shot and was off to the races, sniping his second goal of the season to finish the contest.
Shepard posted a career-high 43 saves in the victory while Gahagen gave up a career-high six goals against.
The Stingrays return to action for the final week of the 2021-22 season this Wednesday, April 13th, when the team heads to Norfolk, VA for a pair of games against the Norfolk Admirals. Puck drop is set for 7:30pm at Norfolk Scope Arena.
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