Gladiators pushed to brink

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - Nate Kiser probably won't shut up for a week, but that's OK with the South Carolina Stingrays.

Kiser scored the game-winner in overtime and Marty Guerin added two assists to lead South Carolina past Gwinnett, 5-4, in Game 2 of the South Division semifinal series Saturday night before a crowd of 2,655 at the North Charleston Coliseum.

The Stingrays hold a 2-0 lead and can clinch the best-of-five series with a win in Game 3 on Monday night in Gwinnett.

Game 4, if necessary, will be played Tuesday night at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Kiser, known more for his fists than his soft hands, has one of the hardest slap shots on the Stingrays team. The only problem is that no one is sure exactly where his shots are going, least of all Kiser.

"I know Nate will be talking about that goal for a while," said Stingrays captain Cail MacLean. "But you know what, I don't mind one bit. He can brag all he wants about this one. It was a huge goal. He's got a really hard shot and he's not afraid to take it when he's got an opening. Like they always say, there's no such thing as a bad shot in overtime."

Kiser got the game winner after the Gladiators failed to clear the puck out of the Stingrays' offensive zone. The puck was wrapped around the boards to Kiser, who stepped up and blasted it past Gwinnett goalie Craig Kowalski for the score at the 8:06 mark of the overtime period.

"The puck was coming around the boards and it came right out to me," said Kiser, who got his first career playoff goal. "I just threw it on net and I got lucky and it went in. Not bad for a chucker."

The Stingrays stormed off the bench and mobbed Kiser at center ice.

"It's a great feeling, no question about it," Kiser said.

Just moments earlier, Kiser was nearly the goat of the game when a turnover resulted in a Tomas Pospisil goal that tied the game for Gwinnett with less than five minutes left in regulation.

"I coughed up that one and I felt terrible about it," Kiser said. "I felt like I had let the team down. It was a stupid play, I had a ton of ice to work with and I didn't use it. I wasn't moving my feet.

"No one got down on me. They kept my confidence up on the bench and I was glad I could repay them with the game winner."

It was the sixth game in less than a week for the Stingrays, who looked to tire in the third period, but somehow found a way to win.

"I knew we were not going to quit," said Stingrays coach Jared Bednar. "I thought our guys fought hard tonight. It certainly wasn't our best game. We did a lot of silly things and some of that was probably because we were a little fatigued. We've played a lot of hockey in the last week."

For the second straight game, the Gladiators got off to a quick start. After a turnover just outside the Stingrays offensive zone, Guillaume Desbiens picked up the puck in neutral ice and skated deep into the Gladiators zone.

Desbiens was pushed wide of the net by South Carolina defenseman Rory Rawlyk and took an off-balance shot from the right of the net that slipped between the legs of Davis Parley for the score just 26 seconds into the game.

The Stingrays tied the game at 1 on Todd Griffith's first goal of the playoffs. Pierre-Luc O'Brien intercepted a pass inside the Gladiators defensive zone and slid the puck to Griffith. Griffith stepped around Gladiators defenseman Jeff Mason and wristed a shot past Kowalski for the score with 8:12 left in the opening period.

The Gladiators took a 2-1 lead on Matt Anderson's short-handed goal five minutes into the second period.

The Stingrays answered less than 90 seconds later on Chris Chaput's power play goal to tie the game at 2.

Chaput got the puck behind the net, stepped out front and beat Kowalski to the near-side of the post for the score.

Trent Campbell gave the Stingrays their first lead of the night, 3-2, with his goal at the 16:25 mark of the second period.

Defenseman Sean Collins made a beautiful pass from inside the Stingrays offensive zone to Campbell on the Gladiators blue line. Campbell got behind the Gwinnett defenders and beat Kowalski with a shot between his pads for the score.

"I saw their defenseman kind of pinch toward the boards most of the night," Collins said. "When I looked up Trent was behind them and I just got the pass to him as quickly as I could. He made a great shot."

The Gladiators tied the game at 3 on Matt Anderson's goal just 70 seconds into the third period.

The Stingrays grabbed a 4-3 advantage on the Stingrays second power play goal of the night.

On a broken play, the puck squirted out into the slot to Morin, who wristed a shot past Kowalski for the score with 12:11 left in regulation.


ECHL Playoffs

South Division Semifinals

Friday: South Carolina 5, Gwinnett 2

Saturday: South Carolina 5, Gwinnett 4, OT

Monday: South Carolina at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday: South Carolina at Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.*

Wednesday: Gwinnett at South Carolina, 7:05 p.m.*

*If necessary