Tough 1st period dooms Stingrays

Stingrays goalie Mark Dekanich gets help from Bobby Shea as the Stingrays took on the Greenville Swamp Rabbits at North Charleston Coliseum on Tuesday night.

For 40 minutes Tuesday night the South Carolina Stingrays dominated the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

Unfortunately for the Stingrays, a game is 60 minutes.

A lackluster first period cost the Stingrays any chance to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games.

Jordan Knackstedt and Darian Dziurzynski each had a goal and an assist to lead Greenville past South Carolina, 4-2, before a crowd of 3,553 at the North Charleston Coliseum.

The loss snapped a seven-game point streak for the Stingrays, who fell to 27-17-6 (60 points) and remained in second place in the ECHL’s South Division. The Swamp Rabbits improved to 24-19-6 (54 points).

The Stingrays have held their own against most of the teams in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference, but have had their struggles against the Swamp Rabbits, despite the fact that South Carolina is higher in the standings. The Stingrays are just 1-4-1 against Greenville this season.

“For whatever reason we’ve had our problems against Greenville,” said South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery. “Greenville has a good team, they work hard and seem to capitalize on our mistakes.”

There were plenty of Stingrays mistakes to capitalize on during the game’s first 20 minutes.

“The first period cost us the game,” Carbery said. “We stood around, we were soft on the puck, we left guys wide open in our defensive zone. We didn’t play very well.”

The Stingrays, who give up the third fewest shots per game in the league, allowed a season-high 17 shots in the first period. Two of those shots ended up in the back of the net as Knackstedt and Vinny Saponari scored midway through the opening period.

“You can’t take a period off in this league and expect to win, it’s a 60-minute game and we played for about 40 minutes of it,” Carbery said. “We were brutal defensively in the first period. We struggled to pick guys up in our defensive zone. We just were not into the game.”

The absence of Caleb Herbert and Joe Devin, to flu-like symptoms, didn’t help matters.

“It gave some other guys an opportunity to step up and play tonight,” Carbery said.

Over the final two periods, the Swamp Rabbits generated just nine shots on goal, while the Stingrays had 22.

“We threw everything, but the kitchen sink at them in the final two periods,” Carbery said. “I thought we were better in all three zones, but it wasn’t good enough to get two points.”

Trailing 2-0, Stingrays forward Derek DeBlois scored on the power play to cut the Swamp Rabbits’ lead in half with three minutes left in the first period.

But Dziurzynski pushed the lead back to two goals on a broken play 5 minutes into the second period for a 3-1 advantage.

Austin Fyten pulled the Stingrays to within, 3-2, four minutes later off a beautiful pass from behind the net from Patrick Gaul.

The Stingrays had power-play chances in the third period, but could not convert. Bretton Cameron scored an empty net goal with 10 seconds left for the final margin.