Greenville Road Warriors VERSUS   South Carolina Stingrays

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC The Road Warriors won their ninth game of the Palmetto State Rivalry over the South Carolina Stingrays with a 4-3 overtime win at the North Charleston Coliseum. The win improved Greenville’s record to 43-22-4 on the season and kept the club one point ahead of Reading for the top spot in the conference.

The Road Warriors’ final visit of the season to the North Charleston Coliseum got off to a bit of a slow start as the Stingrays built a 5-1 shot advantage over the first half of the game. That included the Road Warriors getting the first power play of the game when Nate Kiser went off for slashing at 3:59. Nic Riopel, who made his first start since March 17 was on point during the first half of the frame and deflected away each of the five shots he saw from the Stingrays. The rest of the way out Riopel saw just two shots in the frame and did his part to make sure the ‘Rays stayed off the board. Todd Ford, though, at the other end of the ice was just as effective once the Road Warriors’ offense got on track. Greenville out-shot South Carolina 6-2 over the final ten minutes of the frame, but Ford shrugged off each shot he saw. Florida also had a power play on an interference minor by T.J. Reynolds that went by the wayside.

The second period on Sunday afternoon gave fans in attendance more than a small case of deja-vous as the Stingrays grabbed the lead on a goal by Rob Ricci only to have the answering score come from Jimmy Kilpatrick. The Stingrays scored just as a penalty to Lee Baldwin expired as Rob Ricci came open in between the circles, took a pass from Tommy Goebel and rifled a wrist shot past Riopel. The goal came at 7:43 of the second period. Shortly after, though, the Stingrays started to shoot themselves in their collective foot by taking penalties. While the Road Warriors couldn’t score on 23 seconds of a 5-on-3 or the resulting 5-on-4 chances, they swayed momentum in their favor in a big way. Kilpatrick’s tying score came with 1:13 remaining in the frame as he beat Ford high to the glove side with a shot from the left wing. Riopel notched nine saves in the period.

The third provided late dramatics even though it looked like the Road Warriors had wiped out any possibility of that. A late second period penalty against South Carolina’s Ryan Del Monte gave the Road Warriors 1:56 of power play time to work on to start the third. And they took advantage with Marc-Olivier Vallerand dunking a rebound to the back of the net 1:02 into the period. It was his team-leading 27th of the season with assists to Bowers and Kilpatrick. Brendan Connolly then connected with a power play goal at 13:11 by deflecting a point shot by Wes Cunningham down past Ford’s glove. Three and a half minutes after Connolly’s goal, though, South Carolina’s Del Monte spiked home a back door feed from Derek Keller to draw the ‘Rays back within one. As the Road Warriors clung to their lead, Cunningham was whistled for a tripping minor with just over two minutes to play. And even though they survived the power play, Greenville couldn’t keep the lead with Ford pulled for the extra attacker. Ricci backhanded a puck from the slot off of a body in front of Riopel to tie the game with 45 seconds to play and force overtime.

In the extra session the Road Warriors out-shot the Stingrays 4-2 and took 2:35 seconds to net the winner. Brandon Wong controlled a dump in by Grant Farrell in the right wing corner and fed a pass to Vallerand in the slot. From there he muscled up to absorb a check from Derek Keller before sifting a shot five-hole past Ford for the winner.

Riopel finished the night with 28 saves to earn his 22nd win of the season. The Road Warriors were 2-for-5 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

Mark your calendars! The Road Warriors return to home ice to battle the Gwinnett Gladiators on Thursday, March 31 at 7:05 p.m. at the BI-LO Center. It will be another Dollar Drink Thursday with select draught betters and fountain drinks on sale for just $1! Group seating remains available for the game with discounts off of the box office price, preferred seating based on availability, and other great benefits. To book a group outing call a Road Warriors representative at 864-674-PUCK.

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