It wasn't your typical Sunday afternoon game.
Normally a Sunday afternoon game in the ECHL is a fairly benign affair. It's normally a third game in less than three days, and each team is eager to get off the ice for some much- needed rest.
But there was already some bad blood between South Carolina and Elmira from earlier in the season going into Sunday's game. Add to that the fact that both teams are battling for supremacy in the ECHL's Eastern Conference and this game had more of a playoff atmosphere than a regular season game.
Pierre-Luc O'Brien and Maxime Lacroix each had a goal and an assist, and O'Brien notched the game-winner in the fifth round of the shootout to lead South Carolina past Elmira, 4-3, before 2,318 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, improved to 26-17-2 (54 points) and are just two points back of first-place Gwinnett in the South Division. The Jackals are 26-14-2 (54 points).
Although there were no fights, there was plenty of hitting and after-whistle pushing and shoving.
"We've had a little bit of a history with Elmira, and the games have gotten a little bit chippy," said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. "I knew this game wasn't going to be a normal Sunday game."
There was more at stake than just pride as well for the two teams. South Carolina and Elmira are near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The Stingrays and Jackals are tied for second place in the conference with two months left in the regular season.
"This was a huge game for us," O'Brien said. "You don't want a team to think they can come into your building and get two points. We know we'll probably see these guys again in the playoffs."
Elmira jumped to a 2-0 lead on a power-play goal from Mario Larocque in the first period and Jordan Pietrus' slap shot early in the second period.
"I don't think we did a good job of moving our feet in the first period," O'Brien said. "But once we got or legs moving, we did a much better job and started to get the puck behind their defensemen and make things happen inside their zone."
The Stingrays' top line of O'Brien, Lacroix and Trent Campbell were reunited for the first time all weekend and provided some much-needed offense during the final two periods. Campbell had been serving a three-game suspension for a hit last weekend on Florida's David Rutherford.
Lacroix, Matt Pope and O'Brien scored in the shootout.
The Rays won two of three games over the weekend, but didn't show the same continuity they had displayed during their nine-game winning streak.
First Period: 1. E, Larocque 6 (Gazley, Rivet) 3:10. Penalties: Kroll, SC (boarding), 1:20; Pereira, SC (too many men on the ice), 2:15.
Second Period: 2. E, Pietrus 8 (Martin, Larocque), 2:16. 3. SC, O'Brien 20 (Lacroix, Campbell), 3:04. 4. SC, Scherer 3 (Kroll, O'Brien), 12:04. Penalties: Larocque, E (major, boarding), 8:50; O'Brien, SC (interference), 14;20; Devin, E (slashing), 17:38; Rivet, E (slashing), 18:51; Scherer, SC (roughing), 18;51.
Third Period: 5. SC, Lacroix 4 (Campbell, Flemming), 3:10. Penalties: No penalties.
Overtime: No goals. Penalties: Campanale, E (delay of game), 4:00.
Shootout: 7. SC, O'Brien (unassisted).
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 11-14-2-2-1-30; Elmira: 9-6-10-2-0-27. Penalties: Stingrays 4-8; Elmira 4-11. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 4; Elmira 1 for 3. Goalies: Stingrays - Philipp Grubauer (17-8-2) 27 shots, 24 saves. Elmira - Timo Pierlmeirer (9-7-2) 29 shots, 26 saves. A: 2,316.