DULUTH, GA - The South Carolina Stingrays (14-4-3-1) won their fourth consecutive game this week by defeating the Atlanta Gladiators (12-11-1-1) 4-1 at the Infinite Energy Center on Sunday afternoon.
Goaltender Jeff Jakaitis turned in a fine performance, making 31 saves while holding the Gladiators to just one goal in the contest. Patrick Gaul also played a central role by scoring a goal and two assists in the win, while defenseman Joey Leach got on the board with a goal and an assist.
While South Carolina was killing a penalty to Dylan Margonari for cross-checking, Leach blasted a slapshot by Atlanta goaltender Dan Vladar for a shorthanded goal at 7:17 of the first period. The tally was Leach's first of the season and was set up by Gaul, who controlled the puck deep in the Gladiators' end while down a man before feeding it to the point for the shot.
Before the end of the opening period, forward Andrew Cherniwchan made it 2-0 in favor of South Carolina with an outstanding individual effort in the offensive zone. After a pass from forward Kelly Zajac in neutral ice, Cherniwchan moved into the Glads' end and used the defenseman as a screen while shooting the puck to the top left corner of the net for his team-leading ninth goal of the year.
Defenseman Kris Bindulis picked up the second assist on the play. The Riga, Latvia native has now registered a point in four straight games for South Carolina.
A closely contested second period resulted in just one goal for Atlanta's Tanner Pond, and the teams headed to the third period with a one-goal separation in a 2-1 lead for the Rays.
South Carolina quickly opened up the game in the final period when Gaul and Joe Devin each scored goals in the first six minutes of the period to extend the lead to 4-1.
Gaul's shot seemed to deflect in off a Gladiator in front and came with assists by Leach and forward Nick Roberto. While Devin's tally came on a scramble at the side of the Atlanta net. The team captain never gave up on the play and eventually shoved the puck into the net for his seventh goal of the season. Assists were given to forwards Taylor Cammarata as well as Gaul on the play.
Late in the contest, penalties were handed out during multiple scrums. Trevor Gillies and Luke Sandler were both given 10-minute misconducts, while Joey Leach and Josh Atkinson dropped the gloves and each received five-minute majors for fighting.
The Gladiators outshot South Carolina 32-24 in the contest, while both teams were unsuccessful on the power play. Atlanta was 0-for-4 on the man-advantage, while the Stingrays finished 0-for-4. Goaltender Dan Vladar made 20 saves in a losing effort for the Gladiators.
The Stingrays now have 32 points and sit in second place in the South Division standings. The Rays are set for a 3-game week-long series with the Florida Everblades, the top team in the ECHL, in Estero, Fla. beginning Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
-per South Carolina Stingrays