South Carolina defenseman Zach Tarkir ended the longest game in franchise history with a goal 4 minutes and 19 seconds into the fourth overtime period as the Stingrays beat Gwinnett, 4-3, in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series Friday night before a crowd of 3,941 at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.
With the victory, the Stingrays lead the best-of-five series, 2-1, and can clinch the series with a win in Game 4, which is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. A decisive Game 5, if necessary, will be played Monday night.
“It was a gigantic win for us,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of the guys in our locker room. When Zach’s shot went in the bench erupted and I was elated. It was great to see the guys rewarded for all their hard work for more than six periods.”
It was the longest game in Stingrays history stretching more than 124 minutes. The previous record was 110 minutes and 37 seconds against Mississippi in 1999. The longest game in ECHL history was 126 minutes and 10 seconds as Elmira beat Trenton, 5-4, in 2009
After a scramble in front of the net, the puck squirted out to Tarkir in the high slot. Tarkir took a stride and then blasted the puck past Gwinnett goalie Marc Cheverie for the game-winning goal.
Tarkir’s goal came just moments after the Gladiators appeared to win the game when Pat Galivan knocked in his own rebound two minutes into the fourth overtime. However, referee Tom Chmielewski immediately waved the goal off, ruling that Galivan had batted the puck in with his hand.
South Carolina beat the Gladiators with rookie goalie Rob Madore, who was making his Stingrays debut. Madore stopped 54 of the 57 shots he faced against the Gladiators. Madore was pressed into duty when Stingrays goalie Daren Machesney, who had started in net in the first two games of the playoffs, was called up to Hershey, of the American Hockey league, Friday morning.
Madore, who completed his college career at University of Vermont last month, arrived at the rink just an hour before the drop of the puck. Madore had played 12 games with the ECHL’s Chicago Express, going 8-3-1.
“Rob was outstanding, especially in the first overtime period,” Carbery said. “Gwinnett came out strong in the overtime period and Rob kept us in the game. He was incredible.”
Gwinnett defenseman Dallas Jackson gave the Gladiators an early lead with his slap shot from the blue line less than seven minutes into the opening period.
The Stingrays answered on the power play when defenseman Johann Kroll blasted a shot past Cheverie for the score with 10:42 left in the first period.
The Gladiators pushed their advantage to 2-1 on Andy Brant’s goal at the 8:12 mark of the second period.
Stingrays captain Matt Scherer tied the game up at 2-2 when he backhanded a Greg Stewart rebound past Cheverie for the score two minutes later.
Gwinnett’s Jacob Drewiske scored with less than five left in the second period to give the Gladiators a 3-2 advantage going into the second intermission.
Dustin Stevenson tied the game up with his slap shot just 2:15 into the third period. It was Stevenson’s first goal of the season.
Stingrays 1 1 1 0 0 1 4Gwinnett 1 2 0 0 0 0 3
First Period: 1. G, Jackson 1 (Haddad, Galivan), 6:39. 2. SC, Kroll 2 (Lacroix, Tarkir), 9:18. Penalties: Drewiske, G (slashing), 7:16; Cheverie, G (delay of game), 9:01; Koger, SC (interference), 11:35; Stewart, SC (roughing), 13:23; Haddad, G (roughing), 13:23.
Second Period: 3. G, Brandt 1 (Jackson), 8:12. 4. SC, Scherer 1 (Stewart, Stevenson), 10:51. 5. G, Drewiske 1 (Flache, Duddy), 15:18. Penalties: Arcibal, SC (slashing), 2:29; Murovich, G (hooking), 15:49; Haddad, G (roughing), 19:07.
Third Period: 6. SC, Stevenson 1 (Walters, Higgins), 2;15. Penalties: Tarkir, SC (interference), 13:25; Stevenson, SC (roughing), 15:28; Murovich, G (roughing), 15:38.
First Overtime: No goals. Penalties: No penalties.
Second Overtime: No goals. Penalties: Lacroix, SC (holding), 0:34; Lamoureux, G (slashing), 11:59; Kroll, SC (hooking), 12:33.
Third Overtime: No goals. Penalties: No penalties.
Fourth Overtime: 7. SC, Tarkir 1 (Stewart), 4:19. Penalties: No penalties.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 7-9-12-5-4-8-3-48; Gwinnett: 8-12-11-15-5-5-1-57. Penalties: Stingrays 7-14; Gwinnett 7-14. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 5; Gwinnett 0 for 5. Goalies: Stingrays – Rob Madore (1-0-0) 20 shots, 17 saves. Gwinnett – Marc Cheverie (1-1-0) 16 shots,14 saves. Att: 3.941.