It was just another game for Gwinnett goalie Josh Johnson — or at least that's what he wanted everyone to believe.
Johnson, who was traded from the Stingrays to Gwinnett in early November, got a small measure of revenge on his old team as the Gladiators rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat South Carolina, 3-2, Tuesday night before a crowd of 2,955 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, who are 2-3-2 in their last seven games, fell to 11-5-2 (24 points), but remained in second place in the ECHL's South Division. The Gladiators improved to 8-6-3 (19 points).
When rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth returned from the Czech Republic in November and couldn't find a home in the American Hockey League, the Washington Capitals second-round draft pick was sent to the Stingrays.
With Bobby Goepfert already entrenched as South Carolina's starter, the Stingrays had one too many goalies on the roster. A week later, Johnson — who went 23-13-1 during his rookie season in 2007-08 — was dealt to the Gladiators, who were in desperate need of a goalie.
"The whole situation was handled very professionally, so I didn't have any hard feelings toward the Stingrays," Johnson said. "They treated me great here last year and I understand things like that are going to happen. It's a business and they had to make a business decision."
It was Johnson's first visit to the North Charleston Coliseum as a Gladiator. He had faced the Stingrays already once this season, losing 3-2 in a shootout.
"It was fun to play against all the guys again and to be back in this building,"
Johnson said. "I've got a lot of great memories. It was a little strange to be on the other side, but I wanted it to be like any other game against Mississippi or Florida or Charlotte."
Afterward, outside the Gladiators locker room, a handful of his former teammates chatted and wished Johnson luck the rest of the season.
"I'm sure this was a big win for Josh," South Carolina Stingrays coach Jared Bednar said. "I thought he played well against us tonight and he played well the last time we were down at Gwinnett. We knew that Josh was a quality goaltender when he moved him."
Neither team came out with much intensity in the first period as there were no goals or penalties through the first 20 minutes of the game.
"I haven't been this frustrated or this disappointed after a game," Bednar said. "I don't know where to start. I feel like we've been talking about it and talking about it all season.
"We're not coming to compete the way we have to compete to win games."
Bednar put the blame of the loss squarely on his shoulders.
"We got what we deserved," Bednar said. "We were not ready to play and that's my fault."
The Stingrays finally broke the scoreless tie on Brad Farynuk's power play goal with less than five minutes left in the second period.
Trent Campbell gave the Stingrays a 2-0 lead with a nifty backhand move 2:33 into the third period.
The Gladiators wasted little time getting back into the game. Just 27 seconds after Campbell's goal, Brad Schell scored to cut the gap to 2-1.
"We had some guys that were going hard and some guys that were a step behind," Farynuk said. "We get up 2-0 and then they come down and scored on the next shift. That's part of being focused and disciplined. Scoring a goal and then coming back and playing a better shift is what builds momentum."
Preton Briggs tied the game midway through the second period and Jim Jorgensen got the game winner with 6:27 left in regulation.
The Stingrays play Friday at the Charlotte Checkers.
First Period: No goals. Penalties: No penalties.
Second Period: 1. SC, Farynuk 4 (Kroll, Morin), 15:42. Penalties: Stoesz, G (interference), 5:24; Sullivan, G (fighting), 7:59; Kiser, SC (fighting), 7:59; Bateman, G (hooking), 15:29.
Third Period: 2. SC, Campbell 5 (O'Brien, Scherer), 2:33. 3. G, Schell 6 (Fox, Marchesi), 2:50. 5. G, Jorgensen 1 (Sullivan, Fox), 13:33. Penalties: Dovgan, SC (interference), 3:06; Graham, G (hooking), 8:15; Scherer, SC (interference), 11:02.
Shots on goal: Stingrays 6-9-8-23; Gwinnett: 8-7-15-30. Penalties: Stingrays 3-9; Gwinnett 4-11. Power plays: Stingrays 1 of 3; Gwinnett 0 of 2. Goalies: Stingrays — Bobby Goepfert (4-1-2) 30 shots, 27 saves. Gwinnett — Josh Johnson (6-4-1) 23 shots, 21 saves. Att: 2,995.
Augusta franchise folds
The Augusta Lynx suspended operations and relinquished its membership in the ECHL. The league said Augusta players will become unrestricted free agents but did not offer further details Tuesday. The league is revising its playing schedule to account for the loss of the Southern Division member Lynx. The loss of the Augusta franchise leaves the ECHL with 22 teams in 16 states and British Columbia.
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