Stingrays Beat Gladiators 4-2, Keep Playoff Hopes Alive

By
Posted March 31, 2019

(Photos courtesy Sarah Hobday)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The South Carolina Stingrays kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Atlanta Gladiators 4-2 on Sunday afternoon.

Parker Milner was impressive, saving 32 of the Gladiators’ 34 shots, but the player of the game was Cam Askew. Askew deflected home a Ryker Killins shot with 14:20 left to give the Rays a 3-2 lead. Captain Joey Leach also registered an assist on the power play goal. Askew also got an assist on the Patrick Gaul tally that opened the scoring.

With the win, the Rays set up a meaningful weekend home-and-home with the Gladiators next weekend. The teams are now tied for the last playoff spot, two points behind the Jacksonville Ice Men for third. Atlanta and Jacksonville have mid-week games, while the Rays don’t play again until Saturday.

“The effort, the hard work was there,” Stingrays head coach Spiros Anastas said. “I thought we set the tone early on in each period. I think that’s what made the difference tonight.”

The Stingrays opened the scoring just seven minutes into the game. Gaul put home a rebound after Atlanta netminder Sean Bonar made a nice save on a two-on-one rush. Gaul returned to the lineup this weekend after recovering from an upper-body injury. After some spectacular defensive effort, the Stingrays took a 1-0 lead to the locker room and had a 14-7 advantage in shots after the first 20 minutes.

“Gaulsy’s a warrior,” Anastas said. “He wants this more than anyone.” Gaul was on the Stingrays roster two years ago where the team didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the second to last game game of the year before going all the way to the Kelly Cup Finals.

The Gladiators would tie the game seven minutes into the second period, only to see the Stingrays respond 1o minutes later. Grant Besse had a slam-dunk after a perfectly executed passing play between him,  Stephane Legault and Jordan Samuels-Thomas.  The Rays would take the 2-1 lead in to the locker room along with a 28-22 shots advantage. 

Atlanta would tie the game less than two minutes into the second and it looked like the teams were destined for overtime. However, Atlanta took a tripping penalty shortly after their goal and South Carolina got the much needed power play goal from Askew. South Carolina was able to withstand the Atlanta shooting barrage until Andrew Cherniwchan fired home a 180 foot empty netter to seal the win.

With the games so close, Anastas as the team treating this as a mini playoff series.

“For me, it’s a best [two of three] when you have three games remaining,” he said.

“These are must win games for us right now,” Leach said. “We put ourselves in a spot where we are in a battle and it’s fortunate enough that it’s in our hands.”

The Stingrays have a history of success, making the playoffs 24 times in the 25 year history of the team, but they aren’t letting doubt creep into their minds.

With the win, the Stingrays guaranteed that next weekend’s home-and-home with the Gladiators has meaning, even if Atlanta wins on Thursday at Orlando.

“All we have to be thinking about is Saturday starting right now,” Anastas said.

Notes

If Atlanta loses in regulation on Thursday, all the Stingrays need to do is win in regulation or overtime on Saturday to clinch a playoff spot. It is also possible for the Rays to get the three spot in the division. For that to happen, South Carolina would need to win both games in regulation or overtime and have Jacksonville lose all three games they have left, at Orlando Tuesday, at Florida April 6 and at Orlando April 7.