In his first professional start, which came over a year since his last game action, goaltender Matt Jurusik stopped 40 shots and then turned aside two shootout attempts to lead the South Carolina Stingrays (19-14-7-3) to a 3-2 win over the Wheeling Nailers (14-23-5-1) at WesBanco Arena on Friday night.
Jurusik saved all 15 shots he saw in the first period as well as a shorthanded breakaway stop in the second and six more in overtime during a Wheeling power play to earn his first career win in impressive fashion. Stingrays' goals came from Dan DeSalvo, who also tallied in the shootout, as well as Dylan Steman. Defender Zach Malatesta had second assists on each of the team’s tallies.
After a scoreless opening frame where Jurusik was kept busy by a shots-on-goal margin that favored the Nailers 15-6, Wheeling got on the board when former SC defender Jesse Lees scored at 3:39 of the second.
The Nailers increased their lead to 2-0 on a goal by Austin Fyten at 6:07 of the middle frame.
With two minutes remaining in the period, Wheeling’s Kyle Marino was called for interference, putting SC on the man-advantage. But at the start of the power play, Nailers’ forward Lawton Courtnall came up with a steal and raced in on a shorthanded breakaway. Jurusik shut down the chance to keep the Rays down by only two goals. Then seconds later, DeSalvo used a quick shot from the left circle to beat goaltender Shane Starrett and get South Carolina on the board with his 11th goal of the season. Forward Cole Ully earned the first assist on the power play strike that came at 18:33, while Malatesta was credited with the second helper.
Steman evened the game at 2-2 for SC at 7:03 of the third period, also scoring his 11th of the year off a pass by team captain Andrew Cherniwchan from the corner of the Wheeling end. Steman used a wrist shot to beat Starrett that gave Malatesta another assist, his 14th of the year.
Malatesta wasn’t done, setting Cherniwchan free on a breakaway in the final minute of regulation with the game still tied up. The captain was hauled down by defender Patrick McNally on the chance and was awarded a penalty shot, but this time it was Starrett who held his team in the game, making an impressive glove save on the chance.
Wheeling threatened late in overtime when SC defender Max Gottlieb was called for high-sticking at 5:51 of the extra session, but multiple saves from Jurusik and a few blocked shots forced the game into a shootout.
DeSalvo and forward Matthew Weis each scored for the Rays in the skill session while Jurusik shut down both Nailers’ attempts he faced to secure the victory.
Starrett stopped 25 shots for Wheeling in a losing effort. SC converted for the lone power play goal of the night, finishing 1-for-3 while holding the home team to an 0-for-4 result. The Nailers owned a 42-28 advantage in shots-on-goal overall.
The Stingrays continue their weekend series in Wheeling on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. South Carolina will return home to the North Charleston Coliseum for Autism Awareness Night on Wednesday, April 14 against Orlando at 7:05.
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