JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A three-goal third period comeback by the South Carolina Stingrays (9-8-6-0) forced overtime, but a tally 1:10 into the extra session by Brendan Warren pushed the Jacksonville Icemen (9-9-1-1) on top for good by a final score of 4-3 on Saturday night at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Stingrays defender Zach Malatesta led the comeback with two straight tallies in the third, while forward Dan DeSalvo picked up a pair of assists as SC fell in extra time for the second straight night.
South Carolina had lots of chances at the Jacksonville net in the first, outshooting the Icemen 15-9 in the opening frame. But the Rays were down 1-0 after the first 20 minutes, allowing a power play goal at 10:42 to Pascal Aquin.
Aquin added on to the Jacksonville lead in the second, scoring at 2:10 to extend the Icemen advantage to 2-0. Then at 11:35, Craig Martin found the back of the net for the second straight night to tack on to the lead and make it 3-0.
The Stingrays produced all of their offense in the third period, with the rally starting at 3:30 of the final frame when forward Dylan Steman scored his sixth of the season to get SC on the board. With the puck deep in the offensive zone, Steman grabbed a rebound on the goal line and fired it at the net where it found its way past goaltender Kyle Keyser. Assists on the strike came from defender Tariq Hammond who took the initial shot, as well as forward Cam Askew.
Then Malatesta took over in the middle of the period. The blueliner jumped into action, generating countless chances at the Jacksonville net while willing his team back into the game. First, he scored on a wrist shot from the left circle to make it 3-2 at 9:24 with assists from DeSalvo and defender Jesse Lees. Just 2:41 later, Malatesta was at it again, dangling his way through the defense before beating Keyser with a wrist shot over the glove to tie the game at 3-3. His second goal of the game and third on the season came with assists from both DeSalvo and forward Cole Ully.
SC continued to put on the pressure and outshot the Icemen 12-5 in the third, but the two teams were deadlocked when time ran out and overtime was needed to decide a winner for the second straight night.
After an initial save on Aquin by Rays’ netminder Jake Kupsky, Warren buried the rebound to give his team the victory. Those two shots were the only chances on net during the short 3-on-3 period.
Keyser stopped 32 shots in the victory for Jacksonville, while Kupsky finished with 19 saves in a losing effort for South Carolina. The Icemen had the only man-advantage tally of the night and finished 1-for-3 on the power play while holding the Rays off the board during all three of their opportunities. SC had the edge in shots on goal by a 35-23 margin.