There’s a reason why Fort Wayne goalie Jeff Deslauriers has played more than 60 games in the National Hockey League during his professional career.
Deslauriers stopped 25 shots and Nick Schaus scored the game-winner with a minute left in overtime to lead Fort Wayne past South Carolina, 2-1, Saturday night before a crowd of 5,158 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, who managed to record three points during a pair of games this weekend, are 31-24-7 (69 points) and remain in sixth place in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference. The Komets improved to 29-28-3 (61 points). The top eight teams in the Eastern Conference will advance to next month’s Kelly Cup playoffs.
Deslauriers, a former second-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in 2002, has 62 games of NHL experience under his belt and as recently as last season played for Anaheim. He signed as a free agent with the Ducks in 2011.
He spent an entire year in Edmonton, getting on the ice for 48 games and winning 16 times, despite playing in front of one of the worst teams in the NHL during the 2009-10 season.
But playing time for the Ducks’ American Hockey League affiliate in Norfolk, Va., has been hard to come by, and as a result Deslauriers has been in the ECHL.
For the past two nights, Deslauriers and South Carolina’s Ryan Zapolski have put on a goalie clinic. Neither team was able to manage more than a goal in regulation in either contest as both games were settled either in overtime or in a shootout. Zapolski stopped 33 of 34 shots in Friday night’s 2-1 shootout win over the Komets, while Deslauriers recorded 31 saves on 32 shots in the loss.
“We’ve seen some very good goaltending the last two nights,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “Ryan and (Deslauriers) both played very well in both games. Tip your cap to Deslauriers — he’s a heck of a goalie and there’s a reason why he’s played that many games in the NHL. He’s an extremely capable goalie and he just made one more save than Ryan did tonight.”
Deslauriers stopped at least a half-dozen quality scoring chances by the Stingrays, including one in the final seconds when he made a beautiful glove save on Patrick Gaul’s wrist shot.
“He just seems to find a way to see the puck,” said Stingrays captain Kevin Quick. “He made a couple of huge saves for them. You can see why he played in the NHL and why he’ll probably be back up there soon.”
Fort Wayne 1 0 0 1—2
Stingrays 0 1 0 0—1
First Period: 1. FW, Rizk 19 (Butler, Gates), 2:56. Penalties: Bidlevskii, SC (interference), 0:23; Cherniwchan, SC (interference), 10:40; Wheeler, F (cross-checking), 16:30.
Second Period: 2. SC, Gaul 3 (Langkow), 5:22. Penalties: Gaul, SC (boarding), 11:41; Syroczynski, F (roughing), 12:58; MacLeod, SC (cross-checking), 17:13.
Third Period: No Scoring. Penalties: Chaulk, F (diving), 11:41; Schaus, F (roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:41; Johnson, SC (roughing), 11:41; McGinnis, SC (interference), 11:41. OT Period: 3. F, Schaus 3 (Chaulk, Beauregard), 4:00. Penalties: No Penalties Shots on Goal: Fort Wayne: 9-10-8-4-31. South Carolina: 11-3-9-3-26. Penalties: Stingrays 6-12; Fort Wayne 5-10. Power Play: Stingrays 0 for 3; Fort Wayne 0 for 4. Goalies: Stingrays – Ryan Zapolski (21-9-2) 31 shots, 29 saves. Fort Wayne – Jeff Deslauriers (3-2-1) 26 shots, 25 saves. Att: 5,158.