South Carolina Stingrays forward Wayne Simpson just needed to see a familiar face on the ice.
Simpson scored the game-winning goal and Peter Boyd had two assists to lead South Carolina past Gwinnett, 3-2, Saturday night before a crowd of 3,282 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, who recorded their second victory in as many nights against the Gladiators, improved to an ECHL best 19-4-3 (41 points). The Gladiators fell to 7-17-2 (16 points).
A rookie, Simpson was in and out of the Stingrays lineup at the beginning of the season. But as call-ups and injuries began to take their toll, the former Union College star began to see his ice time increase.
Like a lot of rookies, Simpson struggled to find his scoring touch in October and November, but when Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery traded for Kyle Bodie, his former linemate at Union College, things began to fall into place.
In his last six games, Simpson has five goals and two assists, including three goals this weekend against Gwinnett.
"Having Kyle here and having him on my line has certainly helped me," Simpson said. "We were freshmen together at Union, and we played on the same line for the last two years, so I know what he's going to do when he gets the puck."
The idea of putting Bodie and Simpson together was an obvious decision for Carbery.
"That's just a no-brainer, really," Carbery said. "With so many guys getting called up and lines changing almost every night, it just makes sense to keep guys together who are familiar with each other. Kyle and Wayne were on the ice a lot together in college, so why not put them together at the professional level? You can see the results."
Of course, having veteran Igor Gonalsky on the line with two rookies hasn't hurt, either.
"(Gongalsky) creates a lot of space and he's great in the corners," Simpson said.
The Stingrays got goals from Paul Rodrigues and Luke Grenier on Saturday night, two players who were called up from the Southern Professional Hockey League within the last week.
"Having those guys chip in has been huge for us," Carbery said.
"You call guys up and hope they can just fit in and play a regular shift. Luke and Paul have come in and contributed which is a great bonus for us."
Gwinnett 1 1 0 -2
South Carolina 2 1 0 -3
First Period: 1. SC, Greiner 1 (Sparks), 12:30. 2. G, Currie 4 (Bloodoff, Haddad), 13:52. 3. SC, Rodrigues 1 (Boyd, Price), 19:42. Penalties: Lyon, G (fighting - major), 18:03; Spinell, SC (fighting - major), 18:03.
Second Period: 4. G, Malouin 1 (Lyon, Elser), 16:31. 5. SC, Simpson 8 (Boyd), 19:02. Penalties: Haddad G (hooking), 12:51.
Third Period: No goals. Penalties: Currie, SC (high-sticking), 2:20; Elser, G (hooking), 11:47; Lyon, G (roughing), 11:47; Gongalsky, SC (roughing), 11:47; Haddad, G (roughing), 14:53; Price SC (interference), 16:49.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays -9-14-6-29; Gwinnett:11-6-4-21. Penalties: Stingrays 4-11; Gwinnett 5-13. Power Play: Stingrays: 0 for 3; Gwinnett 0 for 2. Goalies: Stingrays - David LeNeveu (3-2-0) 21 shots, 19 saves. Gwinnett - Brad Phillips (1-2-1) 29 shots, 26 saves. Att: 3,282.