ECHL Game Recap: South Carolina Stingrays vs Jacksonville Icemen | 01/12/2024

Photo Credit: Andrew Fielder for Inside The Rink

Cold-blooded Jacksonville Lizard Kings hockey returned to VyStar Memorial Arena Friday night. The Icemen adopted the Lizard Kings branding for two games at home this weekend, rocking a slick black and green look reminiscent of Jacksonville hockey in the 1990s.

The team’s performance matched the imposing look of the retro Lizard Kings motif, posting a 5-2 win over the South Carolina Stingrays. Friday’s win was the first home win of the 2024 calendar year for the Icemen and the first win against the Stingrays this season. 

10 Icemen players got in on the scoring action, with three players having a multi-point performance. The win on home ice came at a critical time for Jacksonville. Friday evening’s tilt was the first of three games in three days for the Icemen, seeing the team take on a pair of teams they’ve struggled to win against this season.

Scoring Recap:

P1– Defenseman Michael Kim opened the scoring for the South Carolina Stingrays in the first period. Kim’s goal came on a rebound chance out in front of Icemen goaltender Michael Vernon at the 10:40 mark. 

South Carolina’s opening goal would get a response out of the Icemen, the team bearing down defensively and working hard to not let the Stingrays add insult to injury. Icemen forward Craig Martin didn’t let the effort go to waste, tying things up with just over two minutes left to go in the period.
Shots: SC: 7 | JAX: 9

P2– The Icemen took a 2-1 lead in the second period when freshman forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz nabbed his 10th goal of the season. The goal from RFS was scored on the powerplay, and it would be the only goal added to the scoreboard in the middle frame. 
Shots: SC: 10 | JAX: 8

P3–  The Icemen went into the final period of play completely in the driver’s seat. Captain Christopher Brown made it 3-1 on a beautiful 2-on-1 break shorthanded. A quick pass in front from forward Jerry D’Amigo helped the captain put a quick shot past Stingrays goaltender Mitchell Gibson, giving the Icemen their first two-goal lead over the Stingrays all season. Blueliner Ivan Chukarov would add salt to South Carolina’s wound, making it a 4-1 game just 1:13 later.

Stingrays forward Jarid Lukosevicius added a second tally to the board for the Stingrays with just over four minutes remaining in the game, but the Icemen wouldn’t let the 4-2 goal go unanswered. Just 29 seconds later, Jacksonville’s Garrett Van Wyhe netted the Icemen’s fifth goal of the night and his sixth of the season.
Shots: SC: 8 | JAX: 12

Back In Black:

To be quite honest, I had no plans to write a single game recap for Friday’s game. With the team playing back-to-back nights at home, working efficiently usually means I’ll be writing a full weekend report. However, sometimes, and only sometimes, do I allow myself to have a victory lap. Friday night’s game is most certainly worthy of one.

Not only did the Icemen win in those gorgeous Lizard Kings threads, they won decisively. On home ice. Against South Carolina.

It’s a victory lap triple crown.

Craig Martin celebrates after he scores the Icemen opening goal against the South Carolina Stingrays on Jan. 12, 2024. Photo Credit: Andrew Fielder for Inside The Rink

This is a critical weekend for the team as they line up against two teams that have had their number all season. Ensuring the Stingrays didn’t slip away early after the 1-0 goal in the first period set the tone for the rest of the game’s demeanor. The Icemen responded well, tightening up the defensive efforts and being aggressive on the forecheck. Even through the first 40 minutes, where scoring was slow, the team dictated the game’s tempo with turnover producing defensive efforts and quick rushes to the Stingrays o-zone.

It was a complete 60-minute effort on home ice, where the team has struggled to go the distance this season. Three different players had multi-point nights, including Christopher Brown’s one goal and pair of assists, and two assists from Icemen All-Star representative Brendan Harris. Goalie Michael Vernon looked commanding in the crease, stopping 23 of the 25 shots he faced. 

Leapfrogging South Carolina in the standings with the win, the team will now have to go toe-to-toe with the conference-leading Greenville Swamp Rabbits Saturday night before heading to Charleston, South Carolina, for a Sunday matinee with the Stingrays. This weekend is certainly a test of the Icemen’s gumption, but if Friday’s game is any sort of measure, it’s one they’re definitely up to.

Click here to see the full game gallery from our Icemen Photographer Andrew Fielder.

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is a freelance hockey reporter covering the ECHL's Jacksonville Icemen for Inside The Rink and the Vancouver Canucks for The Canuck Way. His work has been featured on Hockey of Tomorrow and The Daily Faceoff, and can be found on Twitter/X @FromTheDrewLine.

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