CHARLOTTE, NC—The Charlotte Checkers bounced back from Wednesday’s Game 3 loss with a convincing 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones on Friday evening.
The win evens the American Conference Semifinal series at 2-2 with Game 5 to be played Saturday in Cincinnati.
Charlotte outshot Cincinnati 31-19 and carried the play for the better part of the game. Ryan Munce stopped 18 shots, redeeming himself after Wednesday’s loss while Matt Schepke notched two goals for the victorious Checkers.
Cyclones goaltender Jeremy Smith was solid in the early part of the first period making several good stops, including a sliding pad save on a Charlotte power play. The Checkers, firing everything they could at the rookie netminder, had nine of the game’s first 10 shots.
The Checkers eventually opened the scoring with 46 seconds to play in the first period when Schepke streaked down the right wing side on a 2-on-1 with David Marshall and fired a wrist shot into the top corner of the net.
Tempers flared toward the end of the first frame resulting in several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and a fight between Charlotte’s Andrew Carroll and Cincinnati’s Ryan Del Monte. Carroll leads the ECHL with three postseason fighting majors to go along with three goals.
With seven minutes gone in the second period, Cyclones forward Brett Robinson picked up the puck at his own blueline off of a Charlotte turnover and broke in alone on a shorthanded breakaway. He was then hauled down and awarded a penalty shot. On the free attempt, Robinson faked the shot and slid the puck between the legs of Munce to tie the game at 1-1.
Minutes later the Checkers were handed back-to-back penalties and were forced to kill a 5-on-3 Cincinnati power play. Munce made several point blank stops and the Charlotte defenders did a great job of blocking shots, keeping it a tie game.
Checkers forwards Marshall and Schepke then entered the Cyclones’ zone on another 2-on-1 but Smith shut the door with an acrobatic pad save.
Charlotte would go ahead 2-1, however, with five minutes to play in the period on a goal by Trevor Hendrikx. Michel Leveille got the play started as he dished a pass over to Mike Taylor. Taylor then got the puck back to Hendrikx who fired a wrist shot past Smith.
The Checkers held a 22-11 shot advantage through two periods of play.
Early in the third, Charlotte applied more pressure, firing shot after shot at Smith but he stood his ground keeping it a one-goal game.
Cincinnati’s luck would not last long, however, as the Checkers took a 3-1 lead. Randy Rowe chipped the puck down low to Carroll who backhanded a pass to Schepke in the high slot. Smith came out to challenge the shot and Schepke beat the rookie between the pads. The goal came at the 8:57 mark of the third period.
Exactly one minute later, Jared Nightingale made it a 4-1 game when he blasted a slap shot from the point that deflected off a Cincinnati defender and into the back of the net.
The Checkers held on a cruised to a 4-1 victory. The two teams will meet again tomorrow night in Cincinnati for Game 5.
Charlotte (5-3) will battle the Cyclones again tomorrow in Cincinnati. Tickets for Game 6 will go on sale tomorrow afternoon and information can be obtained by calling 704-342-4-ICE or visiting www.gocheckers.com/playoffs. Season tickets for the inaugural 2010-11 AHL season are now on sale and 40-game packages start as low as $200.
Notes: Charlotte is 11-2 in its last 13 home games…Mike Taylor (5g, 3a), David Marshall (4g, 4a), Andrew Carroll (3g, 5a) and Aaron Slattengren (1g, 7a) all lead the Checkers with eight points each…Matt Schepke is on a three-game goal streak (4g)…Charlotte clinched its first division title and #1 conference seed in franchise history heading into the playoffs...Ryan Munce led the ECHL in save percentage (.913), was third in wins (26) and was named ECHL Goaltender of the Month for March…Andrew Carroll led the Checkers this season with 30 goals, including six game winners.
Charlotte Checkers 4 At Cincinnati Cyclones 1 - Status: Final
Apr 23, 2010 - U.S. Bank Arena
Charlotte 1 1 2 - 4
Cincinnati 0 1 0 - 1
1st Period-1, Charlotte, Schepke 3 19:14. Penalties-Kilpatrick Cin (delay of game), 1:03; Carroll Chr (fighting - major), 17:01; Del Monte Cin (fighting - major), 17:01; Slattengren Chr (hooking), 19:43; Brouillette Chr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:59; Aubin Cin (unsportsmanlike conduct), 19:59; Reynolds Chr (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00; Lacroix Cin (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00.
2nd Period-2, Cincinnati, Robinson 3 7:44 (ps). 3, Charlotte, Hendrikx 2 (Taylor, Leveille), 15:05. Penalties-Del Monte Cin (high-sticking), 6:19; Roche Chr (hooking), 9:53; Carroll Chr (tripping), 10:45; Lacroix Cin (tripping), 11:59; Sproat Cin (hooking), 18:30.
3rd Period-4, Charlotte, Schepke 4 (Carroll, Rowe), 8:57. 5, Charlotte, Nightingale 1 (Slattengren, Leveille), 9:57. Penalties-Stefanishion Chr (holding), 3:08; Marshall Chr (fighting - major), 10:20; O'Hanley Cin (fighting - major), 10:20; Doig Chr (roughing), 10:52; Jozsa Cin (roughing), 10:52; Robinson Cin (slashing ), 10:52.
Shots on Goal-Charlotte 11-11-9-31. Cincinnati 4-8-7-19.
Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 0 of 5; Cincinnati 0 of 4.
Goalies-Charlotte, Munce 5-3-0-0 (19 shots-18 saves). Cincinnati, Smith 5-3-1-0 (31 shots-27 saves).
Referees-Tim Mayer (11).
Linesmen-Mike Hamilton (80), Matt Macpherson (83).