In front of a socially distant capacity crowd of 2,700 fans, the South Carolina Stingrays (0-0-1-0) were unable to hold a lead and fell to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits (1-0-0-0) in overtime by a score of 3-2 in their season opener of the 2020-21 season Friday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
SC forward Caleb Herbert led the way offensively with a goal and an assist in his first game back with the team since the spring of 2016, while goaltender Hunter Shepard stopped 26 shots in his pro debut for the Rays.
After a scoreless first period, Novak broke the ice at 6:48 of the second with the Rays’ first goal of the 2020-21 season. On a great-looking rush up the ice, Cole Ully sent the puck over to Herbert, who then found Novak who was open in the slot. The forward quickly let go of a shot that beat Greenville goaltender Ryan Bednard up high and put SC ahead 1-0.
The Swamp Rabbits responded quickly, scoring less than three minutes after Novak’s tally to even the score at 1-1 on a goal by Bryan Moore at 9:07.
Early on in the third, Herbert sent the puck towards the front of the Greenville net and saw it bounce in off a Swamp Rabbit defender in front to give SC a 2-1 advantage. The goal, which came at 2:51 of the frame, had an assist from defender Max Gottlieb.
Once again Greenville responded to even the game, this time on a power play tally by Ben Finkelstein at 8:08.
With things still even at 2-2 at the end of regulation, overtime was needed to decide a winner. Forward Will Graber had a breakaway opportunity with a chance to end the game, but Bednard came up with a glove save to keep things going.
At 3:11 of the extra session, Finkelstein scored his second of the night to give Greenville the victory and extra point in the standings.
Greenville had the edge in shots on goal for the contest by a 29-27 margin and Bednard stopped 25 shots in the victory.
Finkelstein’s third period strike was the lone power play goal of the game, with the Swamp Rabbits finishing 1-for-7 on the man-advantage. South Carolina ended at 0-for-7 on the power play.
The Stingrays are back in action on Friday night in Jacksonville when they battle the Icemen at 7 pm.
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