It doesn’t seem to matter who wears the jerseys — the South Carolina Stingrays and Gwinnett Gladiators just don’t like each other.
Mike Ullrich had a goal and an assist and Adam Morrison stopped 35 shots to lead South Carolina past Gwinnett, 4-3, in the season opener in front of a crowd of 6,413 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
A year ago, the Stingrays knocked the Gladiators out of the Kelly Cup playoffs. The opening-round series included the second-longest game in ECHL history.
Despite plenty of new names on both rosters, the Gladiators obviously have not forgotten what happened a year ago.
“I don’t think it matters who we put on the ice, this is a rivalry game and the guys in our locker room who have not been here are going to learn that pretty quickly,” said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. “It probably took about a period for the guys who were not here a year ago to pick up on it, but I think everyone kind of realized it by the end of the game.”
Ullrich played for Tulsa in the Central Hockey League a year ago, but did have some experience against the Gladiators when he played for Pensacola during the 2007-08 season.
“I was familiar with Gwinnett. They were one of the best teams in the league when I was with Pensacola and you kind of figured they’d be one of our main rivals,” Ullrich said. “It got a little chippy, especially in the third period, but I was kind of ready for it.”
Stingrays team captain Shawn Weller said it was a typical opening night game — a little sloppy with lots of energy.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Weller said. “We need to tighten some things up. Guys were flying around out there but not getting much done. I’m hoping that was because it was opening night and guys were excited to be on the ice.”
After a scoreless first period, the two teams combined for five goals in the second period.
Mike Hamilton, one of the few holdovers from last season for South Carolina, got the first goal for the Stingrays.
Gwinnett answered less than three minutes later on Chris Clackson’s goal at the 7:18 mark.
Andrew Cherniwchan and Ullrich had back-to-back goals for the Stingrays, but Kale Kerbashian and Tyler Murovich scored to tie the game for the Gladiators early in the third.
Tyler McNeely got the game-winner on the power play off a pass from Ryan Turek midway through the final period.
“A great pass from Ryan moving the puck across ice,” McNeely said. “All I had to do was bang it home.”
Morrison was steady in recording his first professional win.
“It won’t look like much on the scoresheet, but Adam won that game for us,” Carbery said. “He came up big. Gwinnett probably had a dozen grade-A scoring chances and Adam made some great saves.”
Gwinnett 0 2 1—3
South Carolina 0 3 1—4
First Period: No goals. Penalties: Jackson G, (roughing), 6:08; Weller, G (interference), 9:45; Courtnall SC (charging), 15:54.
Second Period: 1. Hamilton 1 (McNeely, Pistilli), 5:00. 2. G, Clackson 1 (Lawson, Gailiardi), 7:18. 3. SC, Cherniwchan 1 (Ullrich), 8:40. 4. SC, Ullrich 1 (Randell), 11:15. 5. G, Kerbashian 1 (Jones, Jackson), 18;15. Penalties:Courtnall, SC (hooking), 1:34.
Third Period: 6. G, Murovich 1 (Pierro-Zabotel, Donald), 5:41 (PP). 7. SC, McNeely 1 (Turek, Pistilli), 9:59 (PP). Penalties: Lowery, SC (delay of game), 4:27; Clackson, G (cross-checking), 8:56; Jackson G, (boarding), 9:17; Donald, G (fighting - major), 12:47; Haddad, G (boarding), 12:47; Courtnall, SC (fighting - major), 12:47; Randell, SC (roughing, misconduct - continuing altercation), 12:47; Cherniwchan, SC (slashing ), 20:00.
Shots on Goal: SC 9-7-6-24; Gwin: 10-16-12-38. Penalties: SC 8-27; Gwin. 6-18. Power Play: SC 1 for 4; Gwinnett 1 for 4. Goalies: SC – Adam Morrison (1-0-0) 38 shots, 35 saves. Gwin.– Louis Domingue (0-1-0) 24 shots, 20 saves. Att: 6,413.