The South Carolina Stingrays (19-7-3-1) controlled the game from the start in a 3-1 win over the Atlanta Gladiators (14-17-1-1) Saturday night in front of a crowd of 5,597 fans at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Special teams played a major role in the victory, as South Carolina scored twice on the power play (2-for-5) and held Atlanta off the scoresheet during their man-advantage (0-for-5).
Kelly Zajac had two assists for the Rays in the win, while goaltender Parker Milner got the start and picked up his eighth win of the season with 22 saves.
All four goals in the game were scored in the second period. After Atlanta defenseman Taylor Doherty gave the Glads a 1-0 lead at 3:22, South Carolina responded and never let up the rest of the way.
The Stingrays tied the game at 1-1 when Patrick Gaul beat goaltender Dan Vladar with a wrist shot under the glove at 6:19. The first power play strike of the game for South Carolina was also Gaul’s ninth goal of the year and came with assists by captain Joe Devin as well as defenseman Tommy Hughes.
While the Rays were on the power play later in the period, Colin Jacobs had a shorthanded breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot after being knocked over by Tim McGauley. Milner then came up big and stopped the shot to keep the game even.
Minutes later, forward Steven Whitney gave SC their first lead of the weekend with his ninth goal of the season just six seconds after the power play came to an end. Zajac had the puck in the corner at the side of the net and moved it down low to McGauley, who then found Whitney for a quick shot in front that beat Vladar.
South Carolina then made it 3-1 with another power play tally 1:03 later from defenseman Frankie Simonelli. A high sticking penalty to Atlanta’s Lindsay Sparks gave the Rays the advantage, which they scored on after just 21 seconds with the man-advantage. Zajac found Simonelli for a one-timer that found its way up high into the top of the net.
Despite being outshot 9-2 in the third period by the Gladiators in the third period, the Stingrays kept Atlanta off the board and didn’t allow the score to get any closer in the final frame. South Carolina had a 30-23 edge in shots during the entire game, with Vladar making 27 saves in a losing effort for the Glads.
The Stingrays are back in action next weekend when they host South Division rival Florida for two games at the North Charleston Coliseum on Friday and Saturday night. Both games start at 7:05 p.m.