The Jacksonville Icemen began the ECHL hockey season with a comeback win over the South Carolina Stingrays.

Soaked in sweat and wearing a massive metal chain around his neck as the top player of a memorable game, Jacksonville Icemen forward Cody Fowlie didn't need long to sum up the meaning of the First Coast's second opening night.

"It's another step forward in the right direction," he said. "A huge positive for us."

New season. New start.

A more resilient Jacksonville Icemen squad fought back from a third-period deficit, downing the visiting South Carolina Stingrays 4-2 and opening their second season of ECHL hockey at a sold-out Veterans Memorial Arena.

The Icemen showed a little more skill, a little more patience and a lot more grit to achieve Saturday night success before a boisterous crowd announced at 8,967.

The ups and downs of the talented but inconsistent 2017-18 team that missed out on the playoffs, denied by a dismal close of seven losses in eight division games, receded into the past.

Fowlie struck the deciding blow. Taking a clearance from 20-year-old goaltender Berdin, Fowlie skated in and blasted a shorthanded game-winner past South Carolina goaltender Parker Milner at 8:28 of the third period.

"We're just a hard-working team, coming in and trying to outwork teams. It doesn't matter who it is," he said. "And if we're trailing, we try not to focus on it."

The Icemen were trailing for a while, falling behind in an otherwise uneventful first period when a drive from Kevin McKernan skittered across the goal crease and deflected into the net.

Last year's Icemen might have melted after that setback, or after South Carolina's Jake Kamrass restored the Stingrays' lead 34 seconds into the third period, poking home a rebound off Berdin.

But Jacksonville captain Garet Hunt evened the score 57 seconds later, set up by Fowlie and Matt Ustaski.

"That was the response we were looking for, to be able to get in on the forecheck right away and bounce it back to get that goal," head coach Jason Christie said. "It was huge."

After Fowlie's go-ahead goal, Alexis D'Aoust put the game away at 16:30 with the highlight of the night. He sliced sharply inside from the left wing and rounded Milner with a brain-straining, ankle-spraining, NHL-style juke, wrapping up with a no-look finish.

"Obviously, that's a great player there," Christie said of the 22-year-old from Quebec, previously a top prospect in the Vancouver Canucks organization.

Newly-signed defenseman Blake Kessel netted the season's first Icemen goal, a blast from just beyond the right faceoff circle that found a gap past Milner midway through the second.

Milner, the ECHL's goaltender of the year in 2017-18, had frustrated Jacksonville for the first 30 minutes, denying Tyson Fawcett on a three-on-one break and then lunging to the corner to swat a high shot from D'Aoust.

For one day, at least, the Icemen top the ECHL South Division. After a rally like that, Christie expressed more hope that the Icemen's class of 2019 can make a stronger bid to stay there.

"I'm really glad to see how we responded, especially coming back in a third period like we did," he said. "That was a tough go last year from that, and hopefully, we can learn."