Goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 31 shots to earn his first professional victory as the South Carolina Stingrays (1-0-1-0) defeated the Jacksonville Icemen (1-2-0-0) 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.
Shepard stole the show for South Carolina, holding the Icemen at bay for the first 59 minutes of the contest. It wasn’t until less than a minute remained in the game that Jacksonville was able to break through for their only goal of the night.
Herbert got on the board at 10:58 of the first with his second of the season from linemates Max Novak and Cole Ully. The veteran attacker pounced on a loose rebound at the side of the net and pushed it past Icemen goaltender Eamon McAdam to make it 1-0.
Neither team was able to score in the second and SC held their slim advantage at the start of the third period.
Gottlieb wasted little time and found the back of the net for his first strike of the season at 2:58 of the final frame. The Rays had possession in the offensive zone when forward Mason Morelli fired the puck at the net. It bounced to the slot, where Gottlieb quickly let a wrist shot go that got past McAdam to make it 2-0. A second helper on the goal was given to captain Andrew Cherniwchan.
Late in the game, a penalty to Mark Cooper allowed the Icemen to pull McAdam in favor of an extra attacker and secure a 6-on-4 advantage. Seconds later, Derek Lodermeier found the back of the net on a rebound at 19:01 and cut the Rays’ lead down to 2-1.
But South Carolina kept their composure in the final minute and held on for the victory. Jacksonville outshot the Stingrays 18-5 in the third and had a 32-25 shots-on-goal advantage overall in the game.
McAdam turned aside 23 shots in a losing effort for the Icemen, whose only goal came on the power play. Jacksonville finished 1-for-5 on the man-advantage, while the Rays were 0-for-4.
The two teams will face-off once again on Saturday night in the back half of a home-and-home weekend series at the North Charleston Coliseum. Puck drop for the popular Teddy Bear Toss Night is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.
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