It doesn’t seem to matter what jersey Joey Haddad wears, he’s a South Carolina Stingrays killer.
Haddad scored two goals, including the game-winner with less than two minutes left in regulation, to lift Gwinnett past South Carolina, 3-2, in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Kelly Cup quarterfinals Wednesday night before a crowd of 1,344 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The best-of-five series is tied at 1-1 and shifts to Duluth, Ga.
Game 3 is Friday at 7 p.m., and Game 4 will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. A decisive Game 5, if necessary, would be played Monday night.
Playing a year ago for Wheeling, Haddad scored twice and added three assists in four games as the Nailers knocked the Stingrays out of the opening round of the playoffs. After a scoreless night in Game 1, Haddad got two goals in the third period against the Stingrays.
“It’s always a great battle against South Carolina. They’ve got such a good team and a good core group of guys,” said Haddad, who now has four goals and three assists in six playoffs games against the Stingrays. “It’s always a really close, tough game against them. We had a couple of overtime games against them last year, and I don’t expect it to be any different this year.”
Haddad got the game-winner with 1:51 left in regulation when he redirected an Andy Brandt shot from the blue line just underneath the pads of Stingrays goalie Darren Machesney. Stingrays defenseman Brett Flemming was draped all over Haddad in front of the Stingrays’ crease, but Haddad still managed to get a stick on the puck.
“You practice those re- directions 1,000 times during practice and it pays off tonight,” Haddad said. “I saw Andy had the shot and I was just trying to get my stick on it.”
It was a tough loss for the Stingrays, who led 1-0 early in the game and held a 2-1 lead just 2:24 into the third period after a Greg Stewart goal.
“When we got that goal from Greg, I felt pretty good about things,” said Stingrays captain Matt Scherer. “Greg made a great individual play, and we felt like we had control of the game. For the most part we’ve done a pretty good job of finishing off games this season when we’ve had he lead late.”
Haddad tied the game with 8:42 left when he tapped in a rebound on the Gladiators power play, the team’s second power-play goal of the game.
“Special teams are so huge in the playoffs, and give Gwinnett credit — they capitalized on their power-play chances,” Scherer said. “We’ve got to be a little tougher around our net. It’s the playoffs and guys are going to go all out to get into the high traffic areas.”
The Stingrays had a chance to tie the game in the final seconds. With Machesney on the bench for the extra attacker, Pierre-Luc O’Brien got the puck in the high slot, but his shot deflected off a Gladiators defenseman in front of the net and sailed over the crossbar.
“We had our chances, but I didn’t think we played our best hockey tonight,”said Stingrays coach Spencer Carbery. “To be honest, I thought we were fortunate to have a lead in the third period. We didn’t execute nearly well enough. I thought they out-battled us for loose pucks all night. They had a little more jump than we did.”
Goalies Philipp Grubauer (lower body) and forwards David de Kastrozza (lower body) and Mike Hamilton (lower body) are out with injuries.
Defenseman Damon Kipp and forward Nielsson Arcibal were healthy scratches.
Gwinnett 0 1 2—3 Stingrays 1 0 1—2
First Period: 1. SC, Lacroix 1 (Oreskovic, Higgins), 4:15. Penalties: Galivan, G (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:02; Flemming, SC (unsportsmanlike conduct), 6:02; Stewart, SC (boarding), 12:09; Higgins, SC (holding), 16:36.
Second Period: 2. G, Milo 1 (Murovich, Brutlag), 5:37. Penalties: Higgins, SC (too many men on the ice), 4:21; Foreman, G (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:41; Cherniwchan, SC (hooking), 19:07.
Third Period: 3. SC, Stewart 3 (Walters, Dorr), 2:24. 4. G, Haddad 1 (Brandt, Flache), 11:18. 5. G, Hadadd 2 (Brandt, Galivan), 18:09. Penalties: Foreman, G (tripping), 7:14; Flemming, SC (tripping), 10:20.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 5-9-8-22; Gwinnett: 10-8-8-26. Penalties: Stingrays 6-12; Gwinnett 3-6. Power Play: Stingrays 0 for 2; Gwinnett 2 for 5. Goalies: Stingrays – Darren Machesney (1-1-0) 26 shots, 23 saves. Gwinnett – Marc Cheverie (1-1-0) 22 shots, 20 saves. Att: 1,344.