Stingrays Stay Hot, Beat Admirals, 5-2

Posted November 17, 2019

Billy Christopoulos, left. (Photo by Mike Wiser Photography)

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — The South Carolina Stingrays, ECHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals, are off to a great start. Despite playing just their fourth home game of the season Sunday afternoon – a 5-2 win over last place Norfolk – they sit atop the South Division with a 11-1-0 record, with three games in hand on second place Florida.

Billy Christopoulos made his professional debut in net for South Carolina, making 34 saves in the win.

“You’re happy anytime you can get the win. We got the two points,” Stingrays head coach Steve Bergin said. “The thing I am a little bitter [about is], Billy played such a good game, and I feel as a team we let him down at the end.”

Both teams had chances in the first period. The Stingrays went to the game’s opening power play less than four minutes into the game. The home side was able to generate chances, but Norfolk was able to block many shots. Still, the Rays had a 4-1 advantage less seven minutes into the first period.

South Carolina appeared to score the opening goal with a minute left in the opening frame, but it was called back. Cole Ully fired the puck, which deflected off of Matt Weis and into the net, but the ref immediately signaled no goal and called Weis for goalie interference.

The middle frame was all South Carolina.

After killing off Weis’s penalty, the Rays went to a man advantage and made the Admirals pay. Dan Desalvo was the beneficiary of a beautiful passing sequence and fired the puck into a wide open net from the right circle. Weis and Cam Askew had the assist on the opening tally just over two minutes into the period.

Just past the five minute mark, the Rays had their third power play of the period. With the seconds ticking down, Max Novak took a shot that captain Andrew Cherniwchan deflected into the net, giving South Carolina a 2-0 lead. Tom Parisi was credited with a secondary assist.

“I think our power play has been real good,” Bergin said. “It might not translate all the time, with the stats, but I feel like we have built a lot of momentum and we have done a lot of good things on the power play.”

With just over five minutes left in the period, Cherniwchan made a highlight reel move to get around his defender and scored his second goal of the period. Cole Ully and Tommy Hughes had the assists, which made the score 3-0 before the second intermission.

“Our whole team has been playing well. Kinda found some chemistry with my linemates,” Cherniwchan said. “Honestly just got the puck to the net on that one, kinda made a nice play. On the other one, Novak just had a good shot and I just got a stick on it for the tip.”

The Rays continued to dominate against the shorthanded Norfolk team – who ended with just 11 healthy skaters – by scoring another two goals in the final 20 minutes. Parisi potted an unassisted goal just before the halfway mark to make it 4-0, before Askew scored the fifth with 7:36 left in the third period.

It appeared Christopoulos would get a shutout in his professional debut, but his bid was spoiled by the Admirals with 2:15 left in the game. Norfolk would add a second tally, despite Christopoulos being cleaned out in front.

“Unbelievable,” Bergin said. “A week ago he was released from our team. He came back, and with little practice time and I think he stood on his head. He showed he can be a really good goalie in this league. We’re really happy for him.”

“It was exciting. That was fun,” Christopoulos said. “It was fun to get the first game under the belt. Team played awesome. Can’t ask for a better first game.

“As a goalie, you always get the butterflies. This one was a little more being the first professional game for me. After the first couple of minutes, it kinda settles down.”

The Stingrays put their eight game win streak to the next against in-state rival Greenville who comes to town on Tuesday.

“Something we’ve been doing,” Bergin said. “Reset. Refocus. And just continue to outwork our opponents.”