With a game-winning goal at 10:23 of the second overtime period, forward Hunter Fejes put the Orlando Solar Bears ahead of the South Carolina Stingrays two games to one in the teams’ South Division Semifinals series Wednesday night at the North Charleston Coliseum by a final score of 4-3 in Game 3.
Jordan Samuels-Thomas and Matt Nuttle each had multi-point games in a losing effort for the Rays, while goaltender Parker Milner stopped a total of 48 shots. The Stingrays outshot the Solar Bears 58-52 in the contest, including an 18-13 advantage in the two extra sessions combined.
The Solar Bears got out in front for the first time back in the opening period when Mitch Hults netted his third goal of the series at 11:41 to make it 1-0 in favor of Orlando.
After an apparent SC goal was disallowed due to Andrew Cherniwchan kicking the puck into the net late in the first period, the Rays evened the score when they got on the board in the middle period. Nuttle scored his first professional goal on the rush from Samuels-Thomas and Stephane Legault at 6:41 of the second, backhanding a puck past goaltender Connor Ingram to tie the game at 1-1.
The game stayed even into the third period, but Orlando took control by scoring twice in the first half of the frame. First, Fejes was able to beat Milner for his first of the game at 1:27 before Brent Pedersen tallied his first postseason goal at 9:26.
Down two, the Stingrays didn’t go away. Samuels-Thomas struck on the power play for his first goal of the postseason from defensemen Steve Johnson and Nuttle to cut the Orlando lead to 3-2 at 11:53.
Then less than three minutes later, Jonathan Charbonneau evened the score with his first career playoff goal at 14:27, banking the puck into the net off of Ingram to tie the game at 3-3. Assists on the play went to forwards Andrew Cherniwchan and Tad Kozun.
Both teams had chances to get ahead in the final minutes of regulation, but neither could muster a deciding goal. Neither club converted in the first overtime session, with South Carolina totaling 13 shots on goal to Orlando’s five in the initial OT.
But at 10:23 of the second overtime, Fejes found his own rebound in front of the net and ended the game with a wrist shot past Milner during a 4-on-4 situation from defensemen Alexander Kuqali and Mike Monfredo.
Ingram earned his second win in the series by making a total of 55 saves in 90:23 of time in net. South Carolina had the only man-advantage tally in the contest, going 1-for-5 on the power play. Orlando came up short on their only power play opportunity in the game (0-for-1).
The series resumes on Friday night for Game 4 at the North Charleston Coliseum at 7:05 p.m.
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