ECHL Game Recap: South Carolina Stingrays vs. Jacksonville Icemen | 04/06/2024

South Carolina Stingrays/ECHL

The Stingrays were back in action for the final time of the regular season in the North Charleston Coliseum to take on the Jacksonville Icemen for the final time this season. Mitchell Gibson would once again get the start between the pipes, as a few line changes would come from Coach Kotyk. Ian Mackey, Bryce Montgomery, Josh Thrower, and Marko Reifenberger would rejoin the lineup. Kotyk would go back to having Thrower on the fourth line as a forward, no longer opting for the seventh defenseman.

The first period would be underway, as Mitch Gibson would be tested early on from the Icemen. Garet Hunt would be the first to enter the box for roughing. Brandon Fortunato would get one past Gibson after there was a pileup in the goal crease, no one knowing how it even went in. It was later reviewed for goaltender interference, but the ruling on the ice stood, giving Jacksonville the upper hand in the first. The Stingrays continued to battle, Jonny Evans toe drag in front of the goal pulled a holding penalty on Conner Russell, giving them a chance to even the score. The club would get one shot off on Vernon as the period closed out.

The second period started off with a goal from Garrett Van Wyhe within the first minute of the period. A collision between Garet Hunt and Craig Martin sent both players to the bench. Soon after, a collision between the referee and Brendan Harris. There was a small game delay as the referee, Sam Heidermann was helped off the ice, and the linesmen continued with just the two of them, later Shane Gustafson changing into the orange stripes. As play picked back up, both former penalties were killed, and former Ray Julian Kislin was hauled into the box almost eight minutes into the game. Kyler Kupka would record his first professional goal and get the Stingrays on the board. Soon after, Mitch Gibson would get caught behind the net playing the puck and bobbled it with pressure, and Riley Fiddler-Schulz would score on the empty net to extend the lead back to two. Less than a minute later, Austin Magera would avenge his goalie and score to chop at the lead. A minute later, a fire was lit under Magera, and he went for it again on a 1-1 opportunity to tie the game. Just like that, the Rays were back in business. The fun wouldn’t stop there for the home team, as Austin Magera would come out of the box from a slashing penalty, rush the puck, and slide it to O’Neil for Empey to put South Carolina on top. The energy in the Coliseum was truly unmatched for their last regular home game of the year.

The last 20 minutes would be critical to hold the lead for the Stingrays. Austin Magera continued to dominate both ends of the ice, making his presence well-known to the Icemen. Halfway through the period, the Stingrays still trailed in shots on goal 21-32, which is out of character for the home squad. With two minutes remaining, Vernon headed to the bench, only to be sent back quickly for the faceoff. He would head back with 1:30 to go, as Marko Reifenberger would seal the deal with an empty netter, making it 5-3 on the night.

What started out as a slow start for the Stingrays ended up being a second-period thriller on fan appreciation night. With a playoff spot remaining in the hands of the away trip to Estero to face the Florida Everblades, we can only hope this team tonight gets on that plane next week.

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