CINCINNATI, OH—The Charlotte Checkers fell behind late in the second and could not capitalize on a flurry of late chances as they were edged, 2-1, by the Cincinnati Cyclones in Game 5 of the American Conference Semifinals on Saturday.
Cyclones rookie goaltender Jeremy Smith stopped 32 of 33 shots, including a barrage of Charlotte scoring chances in the final minute of play. Cincinnati now leads the series 3-2 with Game 6 to be played Tuesday in Charlotte.
Checkers goaltender Ryan Munce was exceptional in the early part of the first period making several point blank saves. Cyclones forward and leading scorer Barret Ehgoetz had a chance to open the scoring but missed a wide open net on the power play two minutes into the game.
While already on the power play, Checkers defenseman Julien Brouillette was cross-checked to the ice by Ryan Del Monte and Charlotte was handed a 5-on-3 man advantage. Cincinnati rookie netminder Jeremy Smith stood his ground, however, and the Checkers were unable to capitalize.
Charlotte then got on the board, scoring first for the third time in the last four road games. Matt Schepke, on a 2-on-1 with Aaron Slattengren, broke down the right wing in the same spot he scored from a day earlier. Schepke faked the shot and this time passed to a streaking Slattengren who banged it home from the far post. The goal came at the 15:46 mark of the first period and was the winger’s second of the playoffs.
The Cyclones would tie it up with less than a minute to play in the period on a goal by Hans Benson. Ryan Del Monte dragged the puck wide around a Checkers defender down low and fed a pass in front to Benson who chipped it into the top corner.
Late in the second period, Cincinnati took a 2-1 lead on a delayed penalty call to Charlotte. Ehgoetz fired a pass up to the far blueline to Dustin Sproat who beat a defender and skated in alone on Munce then stalled and slid it past the diving Checkers netminder.
Both teams came out with something to prove in the third period and exchanged scoring chances early. Munce stopped a Cyclones 2-on-1 in the first minute before Smith countered with an impressive glove save on a shorthanded chance by Charlotte.
With four minutes to play, Schepke had the game on his stick as he circled the net and seemed to have a wide open top corner to shoot at. Smith, however, raised his stick and deflected the puck away with the paddle to keep it a 2-1 game.
The Checkers pulled Munce for the extra attacker with less than a minute to play and immediately went on the attack. Trevor Hendrikx threw the puck on net and but it hopped over the stick of Mike Taylor who was parked in the crease. Cincinnati then iced the puck, resulting in an offensive-zone faceoff for Charlotte. The Checkers won the draw and continued to throw everything they could at the Cyclones’ net but could not beat Smith as the rookie shut the door, earning the 2-1 victory.
Charlotte (5-4) will host Cincinnati for Game 6 on Tuesday in Charlotte (7 p.m.). Tickets are now on sale 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: Aaron Slattengren leads the Checkers with nine points (2g, 7a) in the playoffs…Matt Schepke is on a four-game point streak (4g, 2a)…Charlotte is 11-2 in its last 13 home games…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 1 At Cincinnati Cyclones 2 - Status: Final
Apr 24, 2010 - U.S. Bank Arena
Charlotte 1 0 0 - 1
Cincinnati 1 1 0 - 2
1st Period-1, Charlotte, Slattengren 2 (Schepke), 15:46. 2, Cincinnati, Benson 1 (Del Monte, Lacroix), 19:09. Penalties-Nightingale Chr (boarding), 1:54; Sheahan Cin (tripping), 6:53; Del Monte Cin (cross-checking), 8:02; Roche Chr (interference), 16:32; Benson Cin (roughing), 19:09.
2nd Period-3, Cincinnati, Sproat 3 (Ehgoetz, Jozsa), 17:08. Penalties-Benson Cin (interference on the goalkeeper), 1:24; Carroll Chr (hooking), 3:33; Reynolds Chr (cross-checking), 7:22; Rowe Chr (roughing), 10:26; Eddy Cin (tripping), 14:52.
3rd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Leveille Chr (hooking), 3:04; Benson Cin (cross-checking), 8:39.
Shots on Goal-Charlotte 7-11-15-33. Cincinnati 12-3-7-22.
Power Play Opportunities-Charlotte 0 of 6; Cincinnati 0 of 6.
Goalies-Charlotte, Munce 5-4-0-0 (22 shots-20 saves). Cincinnati, Smith 6-3-1-0 (33 shots-32 saves).
Referees-Geno Binda (15).
Linesmen-Mike Hamilton (80), Matt Macpherson (83).