JACKSONVILLE, FLA – On Saturday, January 2nd, the Jacksonville Icemen hosted the South Carolina Stingrays. On the surface, it may have seemed that it was just another game but in this most different of years, the game was anything but. The Icemen may have lost on the scoreboard by a final of 3-2 in front of a COVID-restricted attendance of 3,468 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena but the children of the Jacksonville community were the big winners thanks to a post-game “Teddy Bear Drop”.
The game itself started off in a different way when Stingrays starting netminder Hunter Shepard was injured midway through the first period, forcing backup Alex Dubeau to enter the contest. Late in the frame, South Carolina took the lead when Brett Supinski beat Jacksonville goalie Kyle Keyser to make it 1-0.
The host Icemen evened things up at the 11:31 mark of the second when defenseman Andrew Peski netted a power play tally but the Stingrays responded with a goal from Cole Ully to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
In the dying seconds before the second intermission, Caleb Herbert banged home a loose puck to boost the margin to 3-1 in favor of South Carolina heading into the final frame.
A man advantage tally, this one off the stick of Icemen blueliner Jason Binkley, pulled Jacksonville within 3-2 with 7:37 remaining in regulation. It was as close as the Icemen would get as Dubeau (18 saves) picked up the win. At the other end, Keyser made 28 saves while suffering the loss.
Moments later, the lights dimmed and then came back up, signaling the start of the the bear drop. The Icemen, as they and every ECHL normally does this time of year, had asked their fans to donate stuffed animals that would be donated to local charities. Instead of the normal tossing that comes with the first goal of the game, the team staff climbed up to the rafters and dropped hundreds of toys onto the ice following the game.
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