North Charleston, SC– Last night’s game between the South Carolina Stingrays and Atlanta Gladiators was brought to you by the word “scrum.” Each period seemed to have at least one major fracas between the two teams. In the end, 106 penalty minutes had been amassed overall. Despite finishing the game with just four defensemen, the Rays would pick up the 4-2 win.
The pace was noticeably quicker than Saturday when the teams last saw each other. Derek DeBlois, who had just been returned from Lake Erie, made an immediate impact at the 12:21 mark, scoring his sixth goal of the season. Vitek Vanecek was once again solid in the period stopping all seven shots. Austin Fyten and Joe Stejskal got in to it and dropped the gloves at the end of the first period. The penalty parade was on from there.
South Carolina would take advantage of Gladiator penalties in the second period. DeBlois would record his second point of the night setting up a Kelly Zajac one-timer to put the Rays up 2-0 on the power play. Team goal-scoring leader Stephan Vigier would deflect a shot from Spencer Humphries past Atlanta goalie Matt Ginn for the 3-0 lead for his 24th goal of the season. Things got messy at 19:42 when a Atlanta’s Eric Neiley took out Vitek Vanecek. Joey Leach and the rest of the Rays understandably took exception. Four players received roughing minors from the fracas that lasted about a minute.
Things escalated in the third period as the Rays continued to look for revenge for the running of Vanecek. More fights broke out at the 3:33 mark of the third period. Two players from each side fought and South Carolina Defenseman Bobby Shea was ejected for third man in. Thomas Frazee and Jacob Bolton kept Atlanta within striking distance but Vanecek and the Rays would hold on despite being outshot 12-4 in the period.
South Carolina is now 8-3-1 in the season series against the Atlanta. The teams will face each other one last time on April 6th.
The Rays improved to 40-18-6-3 with 89 points on the season. First place in the Eastern Conference is within reach as they sit two points back of Toledo. South Carolina is also three points ahead of Florida.
Goalie Vitek Vancek made 27 saves on 29 shots. He has not lost in regulation since January 23rd.
Mark Dekanich was returned from AHL Hershey and should see a couple games before the end of the season. With Caleb Herbert and Derek DeBlois returning from their AHL stints, there are six players on the roster who played in last season’s Kelly Cup Finals with the Rays.
South Carolina’s final two home games come this Friday and Saturday against Orlando.