NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - Nick Johnson factored in on all three South Carolina Stingrays (5-1-0-0) goals with two tallies and an assist in a 3-1 defeat of the Jacksonville Icemen (0-4-1-0) on Sunday afternoon at the North Charleston Coliseum.
South Carolina defenseman Joey Leach also picked up two assists in the game, while goaltender Vitek Vanecek stopped 22 shots to earn the victory.
The contest started slowly, as neither team broke through during a scoreless first period that began the game.
Johnson broke the ice and put the Stingrays on top 1-0 with a power play goal at 7:40 of the middle frame. The Windsor, Conn. native took a pass from forward Robbie Baillargeon beat Icemen goaltender Jamie Phillips with a wrist shot from the inside of the left circle.
Baillargeon now has five helpers in his first four professional games which is tied for the team lead and defenseman Travis Walsh added the second assist to extend his point-scoring streak to three games.
Jacksonville responded quickly less than a minute later at 8:22 to even things up again when defenseman Chris Dienes beat Vanecek to the game at 1-1.
The teams entered the third still deadlocked, but Johnson's second goal put South Carolina ahead for good. While on an odd-man rush, Johnson attempted to pass the puck to the front of the net, but the biscuit deflected off a defender and trickled past Phillips at 9:32 of the third to give the Rays a 2-1 advantage. Leach accounted for the only assist on what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
Jacksonville pulled Phillips for an extra attacker after calling a timeout before a face-off in the Stingrays' zone, but South Carolina was able to seal the win with an empty-net goal by team captain Joe Devin. The final tally of the night came at 18:49 of the third with assists by Johnson and Leach.
The Rays' penalty killing unit, ranked No. 1 in the ECHL, had another perfect outcome by holding Jacksonville to 0-for-2 on the man-advantage. South Carolina finished 1-for-4 on the power play and out-shot the Icemen 26-23 in the contest. Phillips took the loss in net for Jacksonville, making 23 saves.
Sunday's battle was the first of five straight home games for the Stingrays with the next matchup coming on Tuesday night against the Reading Royals at 7:05 p.m.
-per South Carolina Stingrays