This wasn't your typical overtime win for the South Carolina Stingrays.
When South Carolina forward Wayne Simpson scored the game-winner less than two minutes into overtime, the Stingrays poured off their bench to help celebrate the 3-2 victory Saturday night over the Gwinnett Gladiators.
It was a victory the Stingrays desperately needed as they try and keep pace in the ECHL's Eastern Conference.
The Stingrays, who won for the first time in the extra session in three tries this season, improved to 36-19-5 (77 points) and kept pace with Orlando, Kalamazoo and Reading for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Gladiators are 24-32-5 (53 points) on the season. The Stingrays trail Kalamazoo by two points and Reading by a single point in the standings.
"I think this was an important victory for our morale," said Stingrays head coach Spencer Carbery. "We've been struggling to score goals of late. We've been generating a lot of chances, but we haven't been able to put the puck in the back of the net for a lot of guys that normally do score. I think it was important to get that result, to get it in overtime and not have it go into a shootout."
Simpson showed tremendous patience on the game-winning goal. It started just outside the Stingrays' offensive zone when Peter Boyd got a stretch pass from defenseman Steve Spinell.
Boyd took two strides into the Stingrays' offensive zone, waiting for the Gladiators' defenders to pass by. Boyd found a trailing Derrick Pallis on the play, who came late into the zone. Pallis slid the puck down to Simpson, who was breaking toward the net. Simpson waited for Gwinnett goalie Josh Unice to commit to one side and then back-handed the puck past him into the open net.
"The guys made two great plays in front of me," said Simpson, who recorded his 17th goal of the season. "I was just striding through the zone, trying to find some open ice. Derrick made a great pass, and the job was easy from there."
Like Carbery, the importance of the win wasn't lost on Simpson.
"We've had some close games here lately and have come up on the short end, so to get the two points was huge to give everyone some confidence," Simpson said.
The Stingrays found themselves down 1-0 less than three minutes into the opening period after Brenden Walker scored his 15th goal of the season.
The Stingrays answered, scoring two goals less than four minutes apart from Nick Larson and Paul Rodrigues, to grab a 2-1 lead.
Kurtis Bartliff tied the game for Gwinnett midway through the second period.
Allen York stopped 29 shots to pick up his first win at home this season.
Gwinnett 1 1 0 0-2
Stingrays 2 0 0 1-3
First Period: 1. G, Walker 15 (unassisted), 2:50. 2. SC, Larson 7 (Boyd, Downing), 3:17. 3. SC, Rodrigues 7 (King, Lavin), 7:07 (PP). Penalties: Springer, G (tripping), 5:15; Bidlevskii, G (hooking), 9:01; Bidlevskii, G (removing the helmet, fighting - major), 15:27; Langdon, SC (removing the helmet, fighting - major), 15:27; Spinell Sc (slashing ), 19:17.
Second Period: 4. G, Bartliff 14 (Merrifield), 6:17. Penalties: Grimshaw, SC (roughing), 14:06.
Third Period: No goals. Penalties: Haddad, G (high sticking), 1:13.
Overtime: 5. SC, Simpson 17 (Pallis, Boyd), 1:42.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 9-8-8-1-31; Gwinnett:10-9-11-1-31. Penalties: Stingrays 4-11; Gwinnett 5-13. Power Play: Stingrays: 1 for 3; Gwinnett 0 for 2. Goalies: Stingrays - Allen York (7-6-0) 31 shots, 29 saves. Gwinnett - Josh Unice (0-0-1) 26 shots, 23 saves. Att: 4,133.