Despite trailing after the first period, the South Carolina Stingrays (3-0-0-0) scored three unanswered goals in the second to take the lead and quieted the Norfolk Admirals (2-4-0-0) offense the rest of the night to secure a 5-4 win on Friday night at the Norfolk Scope Arena.
Patrick Gaul led the way with his first two goals of the year for South Carolina, while Joe Devin added two assists in the victory. Goaltender Jeff Jakaitis picked up his third win of the season, stopping 24 shots in the game for the Stingrays.
The first period began at a brisk pace with a high-powered offensive output from both sides as six goals were scored in the opening frame. Norfolk had four of the six tallies led by forward Brady Vail, who registered a hat trick in the opening period.
The Stingrays opened the scoring when Nick Johnson buried a rebound for his first ECHL goal at 2:24 of the period with an assist by Joe Devin.
But the Admirals responded with three consecutive tallies to make it 3-1. Two of them were from Vail at 3:35 and 5:10 and came by newly acquired defenseman Joe Sova at 4:13.
Gaul got South Carolina back in the game with his first at 6:42 from Devin and Johnson and the Stingrays were hanging around down 4-2 after one.
Things turned around in the second period for SC as they scored three times and never relinquished the lead.
First, Andrew Cherniwchan scored his fourth goal in the team’s first three games by sliding a puck past goaltender Jake Paterson at 5:37 with an assist from forward Tim McGauley.
Next, it was Gaul for the second time, who tied the game at 4-4 at 10:13 of the middle frame with a wrist shot that went under Paterson’s glove on an assist by defenseman Joey Leach.
But the final strike and the game-winner came on a deflection by forward Kelly Zajac, who notched his first goal of the season on a perfect pass in front of the net by linemate Steven Whitney. Forward Robbie Baillargeon was credited with the second assist, which goes down as his first professional point in his first ECHL game.
South Carolina was excellent on the penalty kill all night, holding Norfolk to an 0-for-5 mark on the power play. The Rays were also unsuccessful on their only man-advantage try of the game.
After being outshot 16-13 in the first 20 minutes, the Stingrays had a 24-12 edge the rest of the way and finished with a 37-28 advantage in shots on net for the contest. Paterson took the loss in net for Norfolk, making 32 saves in the game.
The Stingrays finish off their weekend series with the Admirals on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
South Carolina is back at home Sunday, Nov. 5 to take on the Jacksonville Icemen at 3:05 p.m.