NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Stephen Slonina notched two goals including the overtime game-winner with 37 seconds left to give the Charlotte Checkers a sudden 4-3 victory over the South Carolina Stingrays before 4,731 fans at the North Charleston Coliseum.
With the overtime loss, the Stingrays pull even with idle Augusta for fourth place in the ECHL’s South Division, two points ahead of sixth place Charlotte. The top five teams make the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
“It’s frustrating to lose again to a team that is trying to catch us in the standings,” South Carolina coach Jason Fitzsimmons said. “We played intense, but they had better puck possession. The loss leaves us no choice now. We must have success in Georgia over the next four games.”
Charlotte (36-25-3, 75 points) hit stride at 2:57 of the first period. Jan Vodrazka unleashed with a shot from the left point that found its way through goaltender Daren Machesney for his sixth goal of the year. Mike Ouellette picked up the lone assist.
South Carolina (34-24-9, 77 points) tied the score at 1-1 on the penalty kill. T.J. McElroy fed Matt W. Reid with a breakaway pass and Reid tucked the past puck netminder Alex Westlund for his team-leading 26th goal of the campaign.
In the second, Slonina netted his first of the night and 12th of the season at the 7:07 mark. Helpers went Zdenek Bahensky and Ouellette.
Chris Chaput got South Carolina back on even terms at 15:00, depositing his 23rd of the year from Jarrett Konkle and former Checkers defenseman John Donnelly.
Stingrays went up for the first time in the game at 7:41 of the third. Brendan Bernakevitch sent a wrist shot into the back of the net for his 18th of the season to make it 3-2 for South Carolina.
Blake Bellefeuille knotted the score at 3-3 on the power play at 13:25 from Mark Lee and Dan Murphy.
In overtime, Slonina ended it at 4:23 with his second of the night assisted by Kirk DeWaele and Nathan Gillies.
South Carolina finished 0-for-7 on the power play, while Charlotte went 1-for-7. Checkers outshot the Stingrays 45-33.
The Stingrays take to the road for the next four games starting at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday against the Gwinnett Gladiators at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia. Join the “Voice of the Stingrays” Mike Kelly on ESPN Radio 910 The Team and online at www.stingrayshockey.com beginning at 6:50 p.m. with the Benito’s Pregame Show. Watch the game live on the web telecast for $6 each at www.stingrayshockey.com, courtesy of B2 Networks.
South Carolina’s final regular season home game, presented by Wendy’s, is at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, April 7 versus the Texas Wildcatters at the North Charleston Coliseum. It’s Fan Appreciation Night featuring a Team Photo Giveaway, presented by Wendy’s. There is free parking and Sea Ray of Charleston is providing an opportunity to “Shoot for a Boat.” In addition, Dunkin Donuts Million Dollar Chuck-A-Puck is taking place and there will be a drawing to win one Washington Capitals team-signed jersey. Plus members from the South Carolina Stingrays 1997 Kelly Cup team will also be in attendance along with the Kelly Cup.
Individual tickets can be purchased at the North Charleston Coliseum box office, by calling Ticketmaster at (843) 554-6060 and online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Discounted groups tickets, birthday packages, Kids Club information and fundraiser opportunities are available by calling (843) 744-2248 or by visiting online at www.stingrayshockey.com. Stingrays Hockey – A Whole Lot Cooler!