South Carolina Stingrays top Gwinnett, 3-1
For the second time this season, the Gwinnett Gladiators were victimized by one of their own.
This time it was South Carolina Stingrays goalie Jeff Jakaitis.
Jakaitis stopped 33 shots and Matt Beca and Andrew Cherniwchan each had a goal and an assist to lead South Carolina past Gwinnett, 3-1, Tuesday night before a crowd of 1,761 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, winners of three of their last four games, are 19-19-4 (42 points) and moved into a tie for seventh place in the ECHL’s Eastern Conference. Gwinnett fell to 25-13-2 (52 points).
A year ago, Jakaitis earned ECHL Goalie of the Year honors, notching 17 wins in an injury-filled season, with Gwinnett. Jakaitis, who injured his knee midway through last season, spent the summer rehabbing and wasn’t ready to play when the season started back in October.
When he was finally ready to play in late November, Jakaitis was a goalie without a team. He spent a game as the Gladiators emergency back-up goalie before the Stingrays signed him.
This was Jakaitis’ third attempt at a victory against his former team.
“I try to approach each game the same no matter who we’re playing,” Jakaitis said. “I still know a lot of the guys on with Gwinnett, but I try not to think about it. It’s the third time I’ve played against them, so the more games you play against them, the more you push those relationships to the back of your mind.”
It was the second time this season a former Gwinnett goalie beat the Gladiators. Stingrays goalie Ryan Zapolski won two games with the Gladiators earlier in the season before the Stingarys acquired the former Mercyhurst College star. Zapolski made 34 saves on Dec. 1 in a 2-0 Stingrays victory.
“I’ve been around long enough not take things like that personally,” Jakaitis said. “The team has decisions to make and sometimes they are out of their control. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to hold grudges. Gwinnett was a great organization to play for.”
The Gladiators and San Francisco were involved in a five-player trade prior to Tuesday night’s game and had yet to receive two players from the West Coast. As a result the Gladiators played with just 14 skaters, two below the maximum.
The Stingrays took control of the game with two goals from Robby Dee and Cherniwchan just 14 seconds apart midway through the opening period.
“We had a couple of chances early on and made the most of them,” said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “It wasn’t a pretty game to watch all the time, but it’s two points and we’ll take every point we can get at this point in the season. Gwinnett wasn’t at full strength, we realize that, but there’s time to feel sorry for anyone.”
Three minutes into the second period Dee appeared to score his second goal when the puck ripped through the back of the net. But referee Don Jablonski ruled the puck did not go through the net and goal was disallowed.
Ten seconds later it became a moot point as Beca scored, wristing a shot between the legs of Mike Lee for a 3-0 lead just 3:21 into the second period.
The Gladiators found new life late in the second period and Jason Clark cut the gap to -1 with his goal midway through the final period.
But Jakaitis shut the door, stopping the final 11 shots he faced.
“Jeff had an outstanding night,” Carbery said. “He came up with some huge saves, especially late in the third period.”
Gwinnett 0 0 1 – 1
Stingrays 2 1 0 – 3
First Period: 1. SC, Cherniwchan 6 (Beca, Vidmar), 8:11. 2. SC, Dee 6 (Vidmar, Mangan), 8:25 (PP). Penalties: Haddad, G (hooking), 5:21; Mangan, SC (high-sticking), 6:16; Brookwell, G (high-sticking), 10:18; Hayes, SC (hooking), 18:15.
Second Period: 3. SC, Beca 9 (Vaughan, Cherniwchan), 3:05. Penalties: Pierro-Zabotel, G (cross-checking), 8:13; Langkow, SC (high-sticking), 15:51.
Third Period: 4. G, Clark 1 (Jones), 9:36. Penalties: Baker, G (misconduct), 14:48; Haddad, G (misconduct), 19:45. Shots on Goal: Stingrays 7-5-8-20; Gwinnett: 10-10-14-34. Penalties: Stingrays 3-6; Gwinnett 5-26. Power Play: Stingrays 1 for 3; Gwinnett 0 for 3. Goalies: Stingrays – Jeff Jakaitis (2-2-2) 34 shots, 33 saves. Gwinnett – Mike Lee (12-10-1) 20 shots, 17 saves. Att: 1,762.