Ryan Zapolski is on the verge of making history this season.
The South Carolina Stingrays goalie has not given up a goal in more than three games.
Zapolski stopped all 27 shots he faced to record his third straight shutout as the Stingrays beat the Greenville Road Warriors, 3-0, Saturday night before a crowd of 7,007 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, winners of four in a row and 10 of their last 12, improved to 30-29-5 (65 points) and remained in seventh place in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference, one point back of the Road Warriors (30-20-6, 66 points) for sixth place.
For the record, Zapolski has not allowed a goal in 184 minutes and 17 seconds. He is 51 minutes off the ECHL record for most consecutive minutes without giving up a goal. The record of 236 minutes and 3 seconds was set by Darryl Paquette, of Hampton Roads, during the 1997 season.
Zapolski’s three straight shutouts ties a league mark with four other goalies, one of whom is teammate Jeff Jakaitis, who shut out the Stingrays three straight games a year ago. Former Stingrays goalie Shane Connelly had three straight shutouts during the 2009-10 season. Zapolski’s seven shutouts for the season are one shy of the league mark.
Zapolski is 20-9-0 with the Stingrays and 22-9-0 overall, including the two wins he picked up earlier in the season with Gwinnett. Only Kalamazoo’s Joel Martin with 25 victories has more wins that Zapolski this season. He leads the league in goals against average (1.69) and save percentage (.939).
He is in a zone few goalies in the ECHL have ever experienced in during their careers.
“I’m playing well, my confidence is high, it’s fun to come to the rink,” Zapolski said. “The guys are playing so well in front of me. They’re giving me a chance to see just about every shot and I should stop those shots. Everyone is playing well, it’s not just me.”
Stingrays defenseman Scooter Vaughan said Zapolski is just being modest. Certainly, the Stingrays are playing more efficiently and better defensively, but Zapolski is still at the top of his game.
“He makes you so comfortable when you’re on the ice,” Vaughan said. “Both of the goalies are playing well. Ryan has the simple things down. He makes the saves he’s supposed to make, and the last couple of weeks Ryan and Jeff have been making saves they shouldn’t make and that’s why we’re on a little bit of a win streak now.”
It was the annual Pink in the Rink night Saturday. With proceeds from a jersey auction going to breast cancer research.
The crowd of more than 7,000 was treated to an entertaining and physical game between the division rivals. The two teams will play again today in Greenville.
“You play against someone back-to-back nights and you start to not like each other,” Vaughan said. “It’s only going to get more physical as this last month goes on.”
After a scoreless first period, the Stingrays got goals from Brian Elser and Ryan Hayes in the second period to take a 2-0 lead into the final 20 minutes.
Robby Dee gave the Stingrays a 3-0 advantage less than four minutes into the final period.
“We’re getting contributions from a lot of different guys,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “I thought we had a lot of puck possession in our offensive zone and we were able to wear their defensemen down.”
Greenville 0 0 0—0
Stingrays 0 2 1—3
First Period: No goals. Penalties: Johnston, G (roughing), 7:29; Cherniwchan, SC (roughing), 7:29; Bidlevskii, SC (elbowing - major, game misconduct - elbowing), 14:08; Delisle, G (tripping), 15:33; Ziegler G (spearing (attempt) double), 18:21.
Second Period: 1. SC, Elser 1 (Kuqali), 4:55. 2. SC, Hayes 8 (Vaughan, Dee), 14:17 (PP). Penalties: Silvia, SC (slashing ), 1:32; Cherniwchan, SC (slashing ), 2:15; Baldwin, G (delay of game), 12:45; Johnston, G (slashing ), 16:15.
Third Period: 3. SC, Dee 14 (Vidmar, Hayes), 3:54. Penalties: Ziegler, G (fighting - major), 5:19; Vaughan Sc (fighting - major), 5:19.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 8-16-9-33; Greenville: 6-10-11-27. Penalties: Stingrays 6-26; Greenville 7-17. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 4; Greenville 0 for 3 Goalies: Stingrays – Ryan Zapolski (20-9-0) 32 shots, Greenville – Connor Knapp (1-3-0) 33 shots, 30 saves. Att: 7,007.