ORLANDO, FL – The South Carolina Stingrays (25-36-6-0) routed the Orlando Solar Bears (31-28-5-1) by a final score of 7-3 on Saturday at the Amway Center, leading to the Rays’ fourth straight victory.
The Stingrays drew first blood nearly two minutes into the opening stanza on Kevin Fitzgerald’s first career goal. Andrew Cherniwchan prevented a clearing attempt from Orlando and fed Fitzgerald in the slot where the rookie squared up with Zachary Émond and beat the netminder to the top-left corner.
Carter Turnbull doubled the lead six minutes later as he fought through a stick tie-up for his second tally of the year. Jonny Evans centered a pass for Turnbull, who crashed the net and deflected the puck past Émond, ending the goaltender’s night.
Brad Barone entered the game in relief for Orlando and was helped immediately on Maxim Cajkovic’s eighth goal of the season. Cajkovic took advantage of a Stingrays mistake and raced for a breakaway, beating Ryan Bednard’s blocker and cutting the deficit in half.
That was the closest the Solar Bears got as the South Carolina offense netted three unanswered goals. Kevin O’Neil kicked off the scoring with his fifth of the year. In similar fashion to Cajkovic’s goal, O’Neil blocked a pass from the Orlando defense and raced for a breakaway with Barone, sliding a backhanded shot through the netminder’s legs for the 3-1 lead with under four minutes left in the first period.
As time expired in the opening frame, Cam Strong added one for good measure to expand the lead to a three-goal advantage. Jade Miller pulled the puck off the wall behind the Orlando net and guided a pass to Strong on the left post, where the forward swatted a shot past Barone for the 4-1 lead with 1.1 seconds remaining.
Lawton Courtnall kept it going just under nine minutes into the second period, tallying his 13th mark of the season. Courtnall raced in an odd-man rush and sniped a shot past Barone’s blocker for the four-goal advantage as they headed into the third period.
The teams traded goals in the final frame beginning with Orlando’s second tuck of the contest. Aaron Luchuk came out of the penalty box and dropped a pass for Tristan Langan, who slid his 15th goal of the year between the legs of Bednard.
Orlando pulled their goaltender with nearly four and a half minutes left in regulation, and O’Neil made them pay with his sixth tuck of the year. O’Neil received the puck at center ice and danced around the defense, opening a lane for the wrist shot goal, his third multi-goal game of his young career.
Luke Boka tallied one final goal for Orlando, firing a rebound over the glove of Bednard before Strong’s second mark of the game iced the contest with just over two minutes left in regulation.
The Stingrays return home this Wednesday, April 6th, for the final matchup against the Jacksonville Icemen this season. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
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