NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - Highlighted by a natural hat trick from forward Cam Askew, the South Carolina Stingrays (32-30-5-1) broke out for seven goals Saturday night, taking care of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (22-37-3-3) by a final score of 7-2 on Saturday night at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
A total of eight Stingrays skaters recorded multiple points in the contest, including Mason Mitchell, Grant Besse, Ryker Killins and Stephane Legault who each scored a goal and an assist. Goaltender Adam Morrison earned the victory with a total of 32 saves in the game.
The victory gives South Carolina wins in four straight games, and kept the team in front of the Atlanta Gladiators by four points for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division. The Stingrays have four regular season games remaining. South Carolina is also just two points back of the Jacksonville Icemen for third place.
The Swamp Rabbits got the better of the Rays in the first period and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission after back-to-back goals by Thomas Ebbing. Ebbing’s first came unassisted at 3:11, before he buried a 5-on-3 power play opportunity later in the frame at 8:50.
But SC took control in the game during the middle frame, scoring four times. First, Mitchell redirected a shot by Jonathan Charbonneau to the back of the net at 5:21 for his fourth goal of the season in his fifth game with the Rays. Forward Andrew Cherniwchan earned the second assist on the play, his team-leading 63rd point of the year. With the first helper, Charbonneau also picked up his 50th point during his rookie season.
At 9:55 of the second, Legault tied the game at 2-2 with his third goal in just two games since signing his first pro contract with SC on Wednesday. Forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas started things on the rush and left the puck off to Besse who put an initial shot to the goal. After a save by netminder Garrett Bartus, the rebound came to Legault, who pushed it into the net to even the score.
Next it was Askew who broke through. The rookie scored his first goal since Jan. 18 when he wristed home a shorthanded tally at 11:59 of the second from forward Tad Kozun. Askew scored his second of the game at 18:43, banking a puck in off of Bartus to make it 4-2 SC with assists by forward Josh Gratton as well as Killins.
Askew wasn’t done after that, hitting the net for his first pro hat trick on a deflection of a shot by Legault at 1:41 of the third period. Gratton picked up the second assist on the play, which pushed the Stingrays’ lead to 5-2.
The rout was on later in the third when the Rays scored their final two goals in a span of 13 seconds. Killins netted his third of the year off a pass by Mitchell on the rush at 7:15. This time it was Charbonneau who was credited for the second helper on the play, his second assist of the game.
On the ensuing face-off, defender Steve Johnson set Besse free on a break and the forward used a deke to his backhand to slip the puck by Bartus for his team-leading 29th goal of the year. The goal, scored at 7:28 of the third, was the seventh of the night for South Carolina, tying their highest offensive output of the season which also came at the expense of Greenville back on Oct. 20 in North Charleston.
Bartus finished with 34 saves in a losing effort for the Swamp Rabbits, who scored the only power play goal of the game and ended at 1-for-6 on the man-advantage. The Stingrays were 0-for-3 on the power play in the game.