The hats were stacked in a neat pile next to Dale Mitchell's locker Friday night.
Greenville Road Warriors at South Carolina Stingrays
When: Saturday night, 7 p.m.
Where: North Charleston Coliseum
Season series: Rays lead, 7-2-0.
The former San Francisco Bulls forward couldn't have dreamed of a debut like the one he had for the South Carolina Stingrays.
Mitchell recorded a hat trick and added three assists for a six-point night in his first game in a Stingrays uniform to lead South Carolina past Greenville, 6-1, Friday night before a crowd of 3,568 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, winners of four straight, improved to an ECHL best 30-10-3 (63 points) overall.
The Road Warriors fell to 21-19-5 (47 points).
Two weeks ago, Mitchell was looking for a team to play for when the Bulls ceased operations on Jan. 27. Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery quickly scooped up Mitchell along with Bulls teammates Scott Langdon and Dylan King.
While Langdon had a spirited fight against Greenville's Emerson Clark late in the second period, and King was solid defensively, it was Mitchell who stole the show with his offensive outburst.
"We knew coming in that Dale was going to be a dynamic player at this level," Carbery said. "I don't think any of us expected a night like this for him in his debut. He had the hot stick, he got some bounces and made the most of his opportunities."
When Mitchell recorded his third goal, his sixth point of the night, early in the third period off a beautiful cross-ice pass from Peter Boyd, Carbery thought the former Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick was going to get called up to the American Hockey League before the final horn sounded.
"I'm glad I didn't have my phone on the bench, I'm sure I would have gotten a call from someone," Carbery said with a chuckle.
Mitchell can't remember the last time he had six-point game and couldn't have envisioned this kind of start to his Stingray career. He had not played in a regular season game in more than 15 days.
"With two weeks off I knew I needed to keep my game simple and thankfully the first shot I took went in," Mitchell said. "That goal kind of gave me a little confidence and after that the puck just seemed to find my stick all night."
The line of Mitchell, Boyd and center Scott Campbell produced five goals and eight assists against the Road Warriors. Boyd finished with a goal and three assists, while Campbell had a goal and two assists.
"Playing with Scott and Peter made my job so easy tonight," Mitchell said. "They are two offensive guys and make a lot of good plays and they finished tonight. We all shared the puck, it was a lot of fun out there tonight."
Stingrays goalie Jeff Jakaitis notched his 23rd win of the season, making 36 saves on 37 shots.
"They had a couple of scoring chances, but overall we kept them to perimeter and didn't allow them much puck possession," Carbery said. "It was a solid overall effort in all three zones."
Leading 3-0 early in the second period, the Road Warriors got their only goal from Sean Berkstresser at the 8:41 mark.
Greenville 0 1 0- 1
South Carolina 2 3 1- 6
First Period: 1. SC, Mitchell 12 (Painchaud, Baker), 7:18. 2. SC, Boyd 15 (Mitchell, Campbell), 11:19. Penalties: No penalties.
Second Period: 3. SC, Vidmar 2 (Mitchell, Boyd), 5:12. 4. G, Berkstresser 5 (St. Croix, Johnston), 8:41. 5. SC, Mitchell 13 (Campbell, Gongalsky), 10:42 (PP). 6. SC, Campbell 9 (Mitchell, Boyd), 18:35. Penalties: Clark, G (tripping), 9:48; Cole, G (boarding), 10:42; Gongalsky, SC (hooking), 14:31; Cameron, G (fighting - major), 19:14; Gongalsky ,SC (fighting - major), 19:14; Noreau, G (fighting - major), 19:41; Collins, SC (fighting - major), 19:41; Clark, G (fighting - major), 19:44; Langdon, SC (fighting - major), 19:44.
Third Period: 7. SC, Mitchell 14 (Boyd), 0:49. Penalties: Greiner, SC (holding), 6:59.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 11-13-6-30; Greenville: 8-12-17-37. Penalties: Stingrays 5-19; Greenville 5-19. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 23; Greenville 0 for 2. Goalies: Stingrays - Jeff Jakaitis (23-4-3) 37 shots, 36 saves. Greenville - Jason Missiaen (3-1-1) 30 shots, 24 saves. Att: 3,568.