Solar Bears Outlast Stingrays in Double OT Thriller, Take 2-1 Series Lead

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Posted April 18, 2019

via the Stingrays

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Ninety minutes and 23 seconds. That is how long it took for the Orlando Solar Bears and South Carolina to find a winner in Game 3. In a game that featured seven goals, Stingrays net minder Parker Milner and his counterpart, Connor Ingram, stole the show. Milner finished with 48 saves to Ingram’s 55, but Milner and the Rays will took the 4-3 double overtime loss as the Solar Bears took a 2-1 series lead. It is the longest game in Orlando’s history.

Hunter Fejes scored the winner, his second of the game on a four-on-four situation. The officials called four penalties in the final 40 minutes of the game. A helmet violation and a delay of game penalty on Orlando, two they had to call. In double overtime, the officials took Colby McAuley and Andrew Cherniwchan  off for cross-checking and roughing to create the four-on-four situation. By trying not to decide the game, the officials ultimately did just that.

“I thought it was a really great effort. I thought we had more chances than them. I thought we had more chances than them,” Stingrays head coach Spiros Anastas said. “The difference in a playoff game is that we gave them three goals. I truly believe that. I think they were all on three costly turnovers.”

The Stingrays came out firing in Game 3, eager to put on a show in front of their own fans. They had a chance just 10 seconds into the game to take an early lead but were unable to find the back of the net. The Stingrays had an early power play, but were unable to convert and the kill gave the Solar Bears momentum.

Mitch Hults opened the scoring capitalizing on a miscue by the Stingrays in their own zone with 8:19 left in the opening frame. The Solar Bears continued to press but the Rays were able to hold them off in large part to Milner being the much needed safety net in front of goal.

“[Milner] played great tonight,” Anastas said. “His rebound control was excellent through the entirety of the game. I think that last shot kind of caught him off guard a tiny bit. He kept us in it. He gave us every opportunity to get back in the game.”

As for the work they made Ingram do, Anastas thought the Rays were too much one and done.

“I think we could have made it a little harder on him,” he said. “I thought we relied too much on first chance opportunities, rather than getting second and third. That’s an adjustment we’ll have to make going forward here. Just get more bodies, more pucks to the net and creating that traffic. I thought he was seeing too much.”

After the goal, the Rays seemed to get their energy back. Andrew Chernwhican appeared to tie the game with just over a minute left in the period. It appeared he deflected a point shot into the net with his skate, and at first the officials agreed calling it a goal on the ice. However after review, it was determined he kicked the puck in and the Rays took a 1-0 deficit into intermission.

South Carolina had a chance to level the score early in the second when they went to the man advantage just 30 seconds into the middle frame. The power play got nothing going and was booed off the ice. Luckily for the Stingrays, the next time they were set to get the extra man, they took a too many men penalty on the delayed call to negate their power play opportunity.

28 seconds later, defenseman Matt Nuttle tied the game. Nuttle jumped into the rush, made a move around a Solar Bear and roofed a backhand shot behind Connor Ingram.

The teams would trade chances in the second but Milner and Ingram would stand tall keeping the game deadlocked. The teams headed back to the dressing rooms even in goals while the Solar bears held a 32-27 advantage in shots.

Milner had an incredible night, but he’ll want the second goal of the night back. Hunter Fejes was in along on a breakaway, Milner made the save skating backwards into his cease, and ultimately into the back of the net with the puck still under him. Orlando had taken the lead just 93 seconds into the third. Eight minutes later, Brent Pederson converted on a breakaway at home and it looked like the Stingrays were headed for a 2-1 series hole.

The Stingrays were given life when Jordan Samuels-Thomas cut the lead in half on the power play on a bullet from the right circle. Often, it’s not how often your power play converts, but when they do.  If the Stingrays win the series, that is a moment you can point to.

Three minutes later, Jonathan Charbonneau tied the game from below the goal line as he banked a shot off Ingram. The teams traded chances in the final five minutes of regulation, but nobody could find the back of the net.

After a scoreless first overtime, the stage was set for Fejes.

Game 4 is set for Friday with Game 5 following the next night in Charleston. Anastas knows it’s a long series and it’s the first to four that wins it.

“We’ve talked about ‘it’s the first team to four wins.’ They’re at two, we’re at one. We just have to get to four before they do. You can’t panic. You can’t get too low. You just got to be ready for Friday.”