South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery has almost run out of superlatives to describe the play of Stingrays goalie Jeff Jakaitis.
Jakaitis stopped all 38 shots he faced to record his second straight shutout and lead South Carolina past Elmira, 2-0, Tuesday night before a crowd of 3,422 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, winners of three straight and five of their last six games, improved to an ECHL-best 22-5-3 (47 points). Elmira fell to 9-16-3 (21 points).
Jakaitis, 30, won the ECHL's top goalie award during the 2011-12 season when he went 17-6-2 with the Gwinnett Gladiators.
Jakaitis is putting together another MVP-caliber season with the Stingrays. Jakaitis (17-1-3) is first in the league in wins (17), goals against average (1.55) and save percentage (.944). Jakaitis, who has three shutouts on the season, has stopped 99 of the last 101 shots he has faced in the last three games, all wins. He has a current shutout streak of 123 minutes and six seconds. It's still well off the ECHL record of 236 minutes and 3 seconds set by Hampton Roads' Darryl Paguette in 1997. It's not even close to his personal record of three straight shutouts which, ironically, all came against the Stingrays during the 2011-12 season.
"Jeff has been unbelievable all season for us," Carbery said. "He's an elite goalie at this level and he's playing like an elite goalie. He's playing like Jeff Jakaitis can play. I think he's done it his whole career. I don't think it's any different this year from previous years. I hate to say it, but we kind of expect him to play like this."
Jakaitis still thinks he can play better.
"My rebound control wasn't great tonight, but I thought the guys did a good job of tying up sticks and clearing rebounds," Jakaitis said. "I think they kept a lot of things out on the perimeter and that's definitely makes my job a lot easier."
Unlike Wheeling, which mustered just 21 shots and few scoring chances, the Jackals were able to get several quality scoring opportunities early.
"We didn't have the jump that we've had the last couple of games," Carbery said. "We were not very sharp early. I find that if Jeff is on early and bails us out of a couple of scoring chances, it kind of injects a little bit of life in the guys. I thought after they got a couple of chances and Jeff made the save, we kind of settled down and played much better defensively."
With six of the Stingrays' top seven scorers up in the American Hockey League, Peter Boyd has stepped up for the Stingrays offensively.
Boyd had another goal Tuesday night against Elmira, his third in the last three games and his 10th point in the last eight games. Boyd has nine goals and 15 assists in 29 games this season.
"Peter Boyd was the best player on the ice for us again tonight," Carbery said. "He got a goal, probably should have had two more. He's in a zone right now. He's making real good decisions with the puck and he's moving his feet. Every game right now, he's standing out, he's making a difference and that's huge with all the guys we've got out of the lineup."
Zach Currie, who was moved up from the blue line to forward two weeks ago, got the first goal of the night for the Stingrays off a Jeremy Price rebound.
Boyd got the second goal midway through the second period.
Elmira 0 0 0 -0
Stingrays 1 1 0 -2
First Period: 1. SC, 2 (Price, Pallis), 16:41. Penalties: Ouellet, E (tripping), 10:46; Ouellet, E (holding), 19:48.
Second Period: 2. SC, Boyd 9 (Rodrigues, Pallis), 9:09. Penalties: Pallis, SC (delay of game), 11:25.
Third Period: No goals. Penalties: Currie, SC (slashing ), 5:11; Carter, E (cross-checking), 7:07.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 17-6-6-29; Elmira: 4-11-6-21. Penalties: Stingrays 2-4; Elmira 3-6. Power Play: Stingrays: 0 for 3; Elmira 0 for 2. Goalies: Stingrays - Jeff Jakaitis (17-1-3) 38 shots, 38 saves. Elmira - Maxime Clermont (4-8-1) 30 shots, 28 saves. Att: 3,442.
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