NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – The South Carolina Stingrays (3-0-2-0) extended their season-opening point-streak Sunday afternoon, falling at home in overtime to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (2-3-0-1) for the second time this year. The contest featured lots of back and forth play and plenty of scoring chances for both clubs. The Stingrays have earned points in every game but are 1-0-2 at home with both overtime losses coming off of goals from Ben Finkelstein in the extra frame.
The Swamp Rabbits got on the board first at 5:29 by a pass that deflected off of the facemask of a Greenville player and went in behind Stingrays goaltender Alex Debeau. Justin Florek evened the score less than 90 seconds later at 6:53 by taking the puck hard to the net to beat John Lethemon on an unassisted tally.
For the first time this year, the Stingrays scored on the power play as Stingrays captain Andrew Cherniwchan deflected in a pass from Caleb Herbert at 3:20 of the 3rd period. Cherniwchan set the play in motion by circling the net and passing to Brett Supinski at the top of the zone. Supinski pushed it to Herbert on top of the left circle and Herbert fired a pass back to Cherniwchan who guided it to the back of the net.
Bryan Moore tied the game for the Swamp Rabbits at 8:10 of the third after a lengthy review determined that his shot had beaten Dubeau prior to his contact with the goalie. The rest of the third period was fast paced as both teams looked to finish in regulation. Both goaltenders made outstanding saves to keep the game deadlocked and force overtime.
The overtime period was as fast paced as the end of the 3rd with both teams having breakaway chances that were denied by the goalies. Finkelstein scored the winner at 2:41 of the OT. Liam Pecararo was stopped on a breakaway by Dubeau. However, the trailing defenders had stopped short of the goal to set up an outlet pass. Meanwhile, the puck was sitting behind Dubeau in the crease. Finkelstein, who had followed the play all of the way in to the net, had the easy tap in for the win.
Overall, the Stingrays looked solid in the Sunday outing. Dubeau was solid in net and made many outstanding saves in his Stingrays debut. Forward Jade Miller looked comfortable in his pro debut as well. The power play, which featured solid puck-movement so far this season, finally converted a chance in their fifth game.
When the offense is in synch and focused, they are a force to be reckoned with. They can move the puck and create quality scoring chances at will, even when they are scoring. Offensively several players seem frustrated. Some seem to be trying too hard to put the team on their back and make plays, while others seem a bit too confident in the talent level and are lackadaisical with passes and zone positioning. It is only five games into the season and not issue for the team at this point, but it may be an area of concern should it continue into January.
The defensive unit is still robust overall, allowing 2.00 goals per game so far this season. There are forwards and defenders sacrificing themselves every game to make blocks. The team is playing very well in a highly competitive ECHL this year but will have to be better offensively, especially on the power play, for long term success.
Travis Rogers covers the South Carolina Stingrays for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him @SinBinStingrays.