It was tough to tell who struggled more Friday night against the Fort Wayne Komets - South Carolina Stingrays goalie Jeff Jakaitis or the 16 skaters in front of him.
Fort Wayne Komets vs. South Carolina Stingrays
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: North Charleston Coliseum
Records: Komets 31-23-11 (73 points); Rays 38-21-6 (82 points)
South Carolina coach Spencer Carbery said both were equally to blame for Friday night's lopsided loss to the Komets.
Aaron Clarke had two goals and two assists and Brandon Marino added two goals to lead Fort Wayne past South Carolina, 7-4, before a crowd of 3,144 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays (38-21-6, 82 points) fell into a tie with Orlando for first place in the ECHL's South Division. It's the first time since early in the season that the Stingrays have not been in sole possession of first place in the South Division. Fort Wayne improved to 31-23-11 (73 points).
The seven goals that South Carolina surrendered to the Komets were a season-high for the Stingrays. Jakaitis, who was a lock to the ECHL Goalie of the Year just a month ago, made 23 saves on 30 shots.
"Jeff wasn't at his best tonight, but neither was anybody in front of him," Carbery said. "Sure, there were some goals I'm sure that Jeff would like to have had back, but we were not very sharp in front of him. We gave up way too many odd-man rushes. We've got some guys that have been in this league a while that are just struggling right now on our back end. Scott Langdon, Dylan King and Steve Spinell are having a tough time right now."
It didn't help matters that the Stingrays' blue line also saw the professional debuts of rookies Kevin Ryan and Dan Ford.
"They had some good and bad moments like any guy making his pro debut," Carbery said. "They were not the reason we gave up seven goals tonight."
Not even the return of forward Scott Campbell and defenseman Joe Lavin from the American Hockey League could help the Stingrays' cause against the Komets.
"We get a couple of bodies back in the lineup and maybe the guys felt like it was just going to happen for us," Carbery said. "We're not the same team we were a few months ago."
The Stingrays managed four goals on just 19 shots. The four goals were the most the Stingrays have scored since beating Toledo, 4-3, back on Feb. 18.
"The four goals were nice, but we just don't possess the puck like we were earlier in the season," Carbery said. "We rarely have extended puck possession in our offensive zone."
The Stingrays should have known it was going to be a long night after Marino scored just 47 seconds into the game.
South Carolina's Dale Mitchell tied the game at 1-1 with his 19th goal of the season at the 12:01 mark of the opening period.
It was a wild second period that saw the two teams combine for seven goals as the Komets took a 5-4 lead going into the final period.
The NHL's Stanley Cup will be on display before and during the Stingrays' home game against the Komets on Saturday.
Stingrays season ticket holders can view the Stanley Cup beginning at 3 p.m. The general public can view the Cup beginning at 4 p.m. Tickets for Saturday's game are required for admission to view the Cup. For further information, call 744-2248.
Fort Wayne 1 4 2 -7
South Carolina 1 3 0 -4
First Period: 1. FW, Marino 25 (Auger, Fleming), 0:47. 2. SC, Mitchell 19 (Boyd, Campbell), 12:01. Penalties: Spinell, SC (slashing ), 15:48.
Second Period: 3. SC, Campbell 11 (Mitchell, Boyd), 0:33. 4. FW, Clarke 21 (Szydlowski), 3:47. 5. SC, Larson 8 (Ryan), 5:27. 6. FW, Szydlowski 10 (Hartman, Embach), 7:54. 7. FW, Clarke 22 (Maione), 15:31. 8. FW, Embach 27 (Hartman), 18:27. 9. SC, Vigier 1 (Downing, Simpson), 19:11. Penalties: Coyle, F (tripping), 11:29.
Third Period: 10. FW, Miller 6 (Bruijsten, Ouellet), 11:27. 11. FoW, Marino 26 12:12. Penalties: Auger, F (delay of game), 14:15.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 5-5-9-19; Fort Wayne:10-13-7-30. Penalties: Stingrays 1-2; Fort Wayne 2-4. Power Play: Stingrays: 0 for 2; Fort Wayne 0 for 1. Goalies: Stingrays - Jeff Jakaitis (24-12-3) 30 shots, 23 saves. Fort Wayne - Matt Grogan (3-1-0) 19 shots, 15 saves. Att: 3,114.