By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Matt Scherer was a healthy scratch for South Carolina in Game 3 against Charlotte Tuesday night.
Scherer wanted to make sure he won’t be a healthy scratch again this series.
Scherer had two goals and Jonathan Boutin stopped 24 shots to lead South Carolina past Charlotte, 4-1, in Game 4 of their South Division semifinal series Thursday night before a crowd of 2,015 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
With the victory, the Stingrays tied the best-of-seven series at 2 going into Friday’s Game 5 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Since Scherer doesn’t normally play on the power play or penalty kill for the Stingrays, and because the first two games of the series had been dominated by special teams, South Carolina coach Jared Bednar decided to keep his assistant captain out of the lineup.
“It’s not like I didn’t think Matt was playing well, because he was,” Bednar said. “We had to kill off 23 power plays in the first two games and we had 13 power plays of our own. There just wasn’t going to be a lot of ice time for Matt, so we decided to go with some of the guys who play a lot on special teams.”
To his credit, Scherer didn’t take it personally.
“I could kind of see it coming in Game 3,” Scherer said. “The way the series had been going, I wasn’t getting much ice time with all the special teams, and I understood that Bedsy had to shake up the lineup a little bit. I wasn’t happy about it, but I understood. It’s the playoffs and he’s only trying to give us the best chance to win.”
While Scherer understands that anything could happen as the postseason continues and he could be a healthy scratch again, he wanted to make sure that decision was more difficult on Bednar the next time.
“I didn’t want to give (Bednar) an excuse to sit me again,” Scherer said. “I wanted to make it hard on him to do it, and the only way to do that is to produce when you get your opportunity. We’ve got a full roster and everyone is battling for playing time right now. The intensity level has definitely been turned up.”
It was the most complete performance of the series so far for the Stingrays, who smothered the Checkers’ skilled players.
“I wasn’t in love with our first period — I thought we were a little sloppy and had some turnovers in our neutral zone,” Bednar said. “I really liked our second period. We were really solid defensively and killed some penalties. I think it was our most complete effort of the series, especially defensively. We didn’t give them many scoring chances.
“I don’t remember us giving up an odd-man rush all night. We had plenty of puck support and we had numbers coming back all night. We made cleaner plays coming out of our zone and that was important.”
Boutin, who picked up his second win in as many games against the Checkers, was barely challenged. “The guys played really well in front of me,” he said. “That’s two games in a row that they’ve played well.”
The Stingrays took a 1-0 lead on Travis Morin‘s goal with 6:36 left in the first period when his wrist shot deflected off a Checkers defender in front of the net and bounced over the shoulder of goalie Jeff Jakatis.
Maxime Lacroix gave the Stingrays a 2-0 lead two minutes later off a broken play in the Checkers’ defensive zone.
Then Scherer went to work, getting back-to-back goals in the second period to give the Stingrays a four-goal bulge going into the final period.