By Josh Heller
Special To The The Post and Courier
INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. – The Stingrays gave up five goals in the third period, including three in a span of 1 minute, 58 seconds, and lost to Charlotte, 5-3, on Saturday night to trail two games to none in their ECHL first-round playoff series.
South Carolina, which also lost 5-3 in Game 1, hosts Game 3 of the best-of-seven South Division semifinal series Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum. Game 4 is Thursday in North Charleston.
“The most frustrating thing for me is the lack of discipline,” Stingrays head coach Jared Bednar said. “We got a couple of calls that didn’t go our way, and we lost our composure. I still feel that we can win this series, but we’ve been our own worst enemy and need to play a lot smarter back at home.”
The Stingrays notched the only goal of the first period at The Extreme Ice Center, the Checkers’ practice facility. While on the penalty kill, Pierre-Luc O’Brien and Jeff Corey broke away on a 2-on-1. Corey brought the puck down to the near-side circle and found O’Brien, who was trailing on the play. O’Brien took advantage of the play and fired a one-timer past goalie Jeff Jakaitis at the 9:21 mark, giving South Carolina its first lead in the series.
Then came a second period that was one to forget for the Stingrays. At the 4:18 mark, a defensive miscue led to a breakaway for Ryan Murphy, who found the back of the net to tie it at 1. The Checkers took the lead 23 seconds later after Matthew Ford skated to the net and fired home a rebound on a shot from Michel Leveille. Charlotte capped its three-goal flurry on a power-play goal at 6:16, as Ethan Graham ripped past a screened James Reimer.
At 11:44, while on a 5-on-3 power play, the Checkers made it 4-0 on a backdoor play from Leveille. While still on that power play, they struck again, this time with Mike Bayrack getting his second goal of the playoffs.
The Stingrays tried in vain to come back in the third period, managing two goals. The first came on a scramble in front of the net, which was eventually pushed in by Nikita Kashirsky to make it a 5-2 game.
The goal, assisted by Spencer Carbery and Matt Scherer, came at 8:38 of the period. Just under five minutes later, at 13:20, Travis Morin got his first goal of the postseason on a shot from the near-side circle. Michael Dubuc had the lone assist on the goal that cut the Checkers’ lead to 5-3.
The winning goaltender was Jakaitis, who stopped 41 of the 44 shots he faced.