South Carolina goalie Ryan Zapolski has nothing against his former employer — the Gwinnett Gladiators. Zapolski still has plenty of friends on the Gladiators roster, but he wasn’t very hospitable toward his former teammates Saturday night.
Zapolski stopped all 34 shots he faced and the Stingrays got two special teams goals to beat Gwinnett, 2-0, before a crowd of 2,434 at the North Charleston Colisuem. It was the third straight win for the Stingrays (10-12-2, 22 points).
Over the past two seasons, Zapolski has played for four different ECHL teams, but he spent the most time — 14 games — with the Gladiators. Despite going 8-3-1 with Gwinnett, Zapolski could never secure a permanent spot on the roster.
“I spent the most time with Gwinnett, so I’ve been able to develop some pretty close friendships with those guys,” Zapolski said. “So, to get a win against Gwinnett, especially get a shutout, was a great feeling. I knew when Gwinnett signed me it was going to be tough to earn a spot, so there are no hard feelings.”
One of Zapolski’s wins for Gwinnett (15-6-1, 31 points) earlier this season came against the Stingrays. Zapolski is now 7-4-0 with an ECHL-leading goals against average of 1.58.
“I sound like a broken record, but Ryan Zapolski was fantastic again for us tonight,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “He was able to find the puck and make some huge saves, especially in the second period when I didn’t think we played that well.”
The Stingrays, who were outshot 30-20 during the game, grabbed a 1-0 lead on Tyler Johnson’s power-play goal seven minutes into the game.
“Great individual move by Tyler to give us some momentum early in the game,” Carbery said.
Six minutes later, Andrew Sackrison picked up a loose puck at the Stingrays’ blue line, shouldered his way past a Gladiators defender in neutral ice and beat Gwinnett goalie Mike Lee with a nifty forehand-backhand move for South Carolina’s first short-handed goal of the season.
“What a huge goal for us at that point in the game,” Carbery said. “Again, another great individual effort from Andrew. He made a great move on one of the top goalies in the league.”
It was the first time all season the Stingrays have won three straight games.
“We’re finding ways to win games, even when we’re not at our best,” Carbery said. “We’re starting to gain some confidence and finally feel good about ourselves.”
Gwinnett 0 0 0 – 0
Stingrays 2 0 0 – 2
First Period: 1. SC, Johnson 2 (Weller, Quick), 7:04 (PP). 2. SC, Sackrison 1 13:08 (SH). Penalties: Donald, G (delay of game), 6:00; Scrymgeour, G (hooking), 11:16; Bidlevskii, SC (closing hand on puck), 11:16; Quick, SC (hooking), 12:13.
Second Period: No goals. Penalties: Jackson, G (holding), 2:51; Weller, SC (slashing ), 3:22; Koger, SC (high-sticking), 15:34.
Third Period: No goals. Penalties: Lee, G (delay of game), 5:31; McNeely, SC (holding), 9:11; Bidlevskii, SC (cross-checking), 13:20; Jones, G (roughing), 17:53; Bidlevskii, SC (roughing), 17:53. Shots on Goal: Stingrays 8-4-8-20; Gwinnett: 12-11-11-34. Penalties: Stingrays 7-14; Kamazoo 5-10. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 3; Gwinnett 0 for 0. Goalies: Stingrays – Ryan Zapolski (7-4-0) 34 shots, 34 saves. Gwinnett – Mike Lee (9-5-1) 20 shots, 18 saves. Att: 2,423.