NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Blake Winiecki scored twice for the third time in the last five games to push the Florida Everblades to their eighth straight victory, a 4-3 triumph over the South Carolina Stingrays on Saturday night at North Charleston Coliseum.
In the third game of a four-game week, the Everblades (45-15-5-0, 95 pts.) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on South Carolina (28-30-5-1, 62 pts.) in the first six minutes and never trailed the rest of the way in their first win in four games that did not require overtime.
Just 1:04 into the opening frame, Derek Sheppard unloaded a shot from the left point that Philippe Hudon deflected past South Carolina goaltender Parker Milner from between the circles to make it a 1-0 Everblades’ lead. Hudon also assisted on the game-winning goal for his first career multi-point game.
Florida then doubled its advantage on its first power play of the night at the 5:47 mark of the first period. Upon receiving a pass in the right circle, Michael Neville dished to the slot for Blake Winiecki, who redirected it past Milner.
With a delayed penalty coming to the Everblades, South Carolina scored on the ensuing extra-attacker situation to close its deficit to one. Jordan Samuels-Thomas sprung Grant Besse on a breakaway with a feed from the neutral zone, and Besse finished the play by beating Everblades goaltender Jeremy Helvig with a five-hole shot with 7:11 left in the first.
Ben Masella propelled Florida back ahead by two with his sixth goal of the season at the 9:52 mark of period two. On a great give-and-go sequence with Patrick Bajkov, Masella created the scoring chance by picking off a pass outside the ‘Blades line. Masella and Bajkov then each exchanged two passes, and Masella ripped a one-time shot from the inside edge of the right circle to finish the sequence.
Besse netted his second of the night to pull the Stingrays back within one with less than seven minutes left in the second. As the puck came loose in the slot, Besse gathered it and fired it over the glove of Helvig to make it a 3-2 game.
But Winiecki stepped up with another pivotal goal, providing what proved to be the game-winning strike with 9:46 left in regulation. On a rush down the right wing, Hudon raced through the right circle and fed Winiecki at the back post for a one-time shot that beat Milner.
South Carolina again closed the gap to one goal, but Miles Liberati’s tally with 2:43 left in regulation was the final goal of the night for the Stingrays.
Helvig finished with 22 saves to earn his sixth straight victory.
Florida will aim for a sweep of its four-game week when it faces the Stingrays on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. at North Charleston Coliseum.
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