INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. – The Charlotte Checkers got two second-period goals 25 seconds apart and hung on to defeat the South Carolina Stingrays, 3-2, sweeping the two-game preseason series. The team will now finish out training camp and prepare for the season opener on Oct. 17 in North Charleston, S.C.
The Checkers got on the board just 1:03 into the game on a goal by Matt Ford. Michel Leveille gained the zone and dished a pass up the boards to Aaron Slattengren who then passed it cross-crease to Matt Ford for his first of the preseason.
Checkers penalty trouble late in the first period resulted in a pair of back-to-back 5-on-3 power plays for the Stingrays. On the first power play, Checkers’ goaltender Miika Wiikman made several key saves to keep the one-goal lead. South Carolina then capitalized on a one-time point shot by Keith Johnson that beat Wiikman glove-side. The power-play goal came at the 10:19 mark of the second and Johann Kroll and Nikita Kashirsky drew assists.
Charlotte took the lead 5:18 into the second period when defenseman Chris Snavely beat goaltender Todd Ford with a slap shot off a drop pass from Michel Leveille. The assist was Leveille’s second of the night.
Just 25 seconds later, the Checkers extended their lead on a point shot by Ethan Graham that deflected off of a Stingrays defenseman’s stick. The goal came at 5:43 and would prove to be the game-winner.
South Carolina responded back late in the second to bring the score to 3-2. Stingrays forward Keith Johnson took a shot at Wiikman from a bad angle and Nikita Kashirsky was there to bang in the rebound.
Late in the third period South Carolina pulled their goaltender for a 6-on-5 advantage but the Checkers weathered the storm for the 3-2 win in front of the capacity home crowd.
Miika Wiikman got credit for the Checkers victory with 10 saves on 12 shots. Charlotte rookie goaltender Billy Sauer, playing the role of closer, stopped all 10 shots he faced. Todd Ford stopped 27 of 30 shots in a losing effort for the Stingrays.
Training camp will continue until Thursday when the final roster will be decided upon. The Checkers will then begin the regular season next Saturday, Oct. 17 in North Charleston, S.C. against the Stingrays.