A month ago, the South Carolina Stingrays would have found a way to lose a game like this. The last two weeks, the Stingrays are finding ways to win them.
Tyler Johnson had two goals and an assist and Chris Langkow added two goals to lead South Carolina past Trenton, 6-5, in a shootout Saturday before a crowd of 3,098 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
It was the fifth straight win for the Stingrays, who improved to 12-12-2 on the season. The Titans fell to 8-10-3 (19 points).
The Stingrays fell behind three times during the game, only to fight their way back and come away with two points in the crowded ECHL Eastern Conference. South Carolina won despite trailing by two goals twice during the game.
“I’m not sure in the fourth or fifth game of the season we would have been able to come back like we did and win the game,” said assistant coach J.B. Bittner, who was the acting head coach with Spencer Carbery battling the stomach flu.
“That’s a big character win for us tonight. Down like we were and sticking with our systems in the third period showed that we’re a different team now.”
It was a wild, roller-coaster game for both teams and both starting goalies. Trenton’s Niko Hovinen stopped 30 of 35 shots, but was shaky the entire night. Stingrays rookie goalie Adam Morrison lasted until the second period, making just eight saves on 12 shots. He was replaced in the second period by Ryan Zapolski, who stopped 20 of 21 shots to improve to 9-4-0.
“When they tell you you’ve got the night off you hope you don’t have to play,” said Zapolski, who has an ECHL leading goals against average of 1.58. “But you have to be ready to play. The starter could get injured, so you can’t relax.”
Trailing 4-3, Zapolski had little to get comfortable in his net when the Titans were awarded a penalty shot after Langkow covered up the puck in the Stingrays crease. Zapolski was able to stop Jacob Cepis’ penalty shot and give the Stingrays some momentum.
“The penalty shot probably woke me up,” Zapolski said. “It definitely got me into the game mentally.”
The Titans pushed their advantage to 5-3 on Stephen Schultz’s power play goal with less than six minutes left in the second period. But Johnson answered with less than four minutes left in the second period to close the gap to 5-4 heading into the final period.
After nine combined goals in the first two periods, the third period turned into a more defensive affair.
Langkow got the game-tying goal with less than two minutes left to send the game into overtime.
Trenton 3 2 0 0 0—5
Stingrays 3 1 1 0 1—6
First Period: 1. T, Zajac 1 (Schultz), 5:28. 2. T, Zajac 2 (Schultz, Noebels), 7:33. 3. SC, Langkow 5 (Pistilli, Johnson), 13:57. 4. SC, 10 (McNeely, Koger), 14:06. 5. SC, Johnson 3 (Pistilli, Kipp), 17:54. 6. T. Slater 4 (Grimshaw, Drewiske), 18:48. Penalties: Kipp, SC (hooking), 8:53; Conboy, T (interference on the goalkeeper), 10 :08.
Second Period: 7. T, Slater 4 (Nagy, Drewiske), 5:44. 8. T, Schultz 7 (Hostetter, Noebels), 13:47 (PP). 9. SC, Johnson 4 (McNeely, Pistilli), 16:45. Penalties: Hostetter, T (slashing ), 6:56; Koger, SC (cross-checking), 6:56; Koger, SC (boarding), 12:34.
Third Period: 10. SC, Langkow 6 (Courtnall, Vaughan), 18:06. Penalties: Drewiske, T (tripping), 2:26; Slater, T (fighting - major), 7:16; Koger, SC (fighting - major), 7:16. Overtime: No Scoring. Penalties: No Penalties Shootout: Trenton – 1 (Schultz NG, Bohmbach G, Mangene NG, Noebels NG, Zajac NG), South Carolina – 2 (Koger G, Johnson G, Bishop NG, Langkow NG, McNeely NG).
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 16-8-8-3-1-36; Trenton:9-13-8-3-33. Penalties: Stingrays 4-11; Trenton 4-11. Power Play: Stingrays 0 for 2; Trenton 1 for 2. Goalies: Stingrays – Adam Morrison (1-4-2) 12 shots, 8 saves. Ryan Zapolski (9-4-0) 21 shots, 20 saves. Trenton – Niko Hovinen (2-5-1) 35 shots, 30 saves. A: 3,098.