NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – A couple of weeks ago, the South Carolina Stingrays were an enigma that the Orlando Solar Bears were trying to solve. In five previous meetings, the Solar Bears had yet to beat their South division foes, especially at the North Charleston Coliseum.
That was then. This is now.
Tuesday night, Tyler Murovich scored the game-winning goal 33 seconds into overtime as the Solar Bears went on the road and beat the Stingrays 3-2. The win was Orlando’s tenth straight and third in a row over the division and conference leaders. South Carolina’s lead now stands at just four points.
Murovich’s 15th goal of the season was the perfect example of how things have been going for the Solar Bears during the recent hot streak. Defenseman Blake Kessel carried the puck through the neutral zone and into the South Carolina end. As the Stingrays defenders backed into a defensive position, he stopped just inside the blue line. At the same time, Murovich drove toward the front of the net to be in position to either screen goalie Max Strang or be in the right place for a tip or a rebound. Kessel’s low, hard shot found Murovich who indeed redirected it home.
It was the third time during the run that the Solar Bears had gone to overtime and won in dramatic fashion. Orlando now is seven consecutive wins shy of the league record of 17 held by the 2007-2008 Cincinnati Cyclones who won the Kelly Cup that season.
For the third straight game, Orlando (32-15-2-3) found itself in an early hole. Just 2:11 into the opening period, South Carolina’s Paul Rodrigues skated the puck behind the net and then made a perfect pass to Nick Larson who beat Solar Bears netminder Cody Reichard from the slot.
The Solar Bears got that one back a little past the midpoint of the frame when during a power play, Jake Cepis’ shot was stopped by Strang but the rebound squirted away. A mad scramble ensued before Taylor Matson found the puck and tucked it home for his 13th goal of the season.
The visitors then took the lead with a goal that coaches hate – a goal in the final minute. Orlando put on an offensive push and it resulted in defenseman Corey Fienhage putting a wrist shot through some heavy traffic into the back of the net. It was a back breaker for the Stingrays, coming with 54.8 seconds left before the first intermission.
The teams settled in for an old fashioned defensive battle in the middle stanza. Neither Reichard nor Strang was willing to flinch, keeping the scoreboard at 2-1 through a combined 16 shots on net.
Near the midway mark of the third period, Orlando’s Andrew Johnston took a penalty trying to defend Reichard and it cost the Solar Bears. On the ensuing man advantage, defenseman Drew Baker got his stick on the puck in the high slot and nailed a shot past Reichard just inside the right post.
South Carolina (33-15-2-3) continued to push for the go-ahead score thinking they had Orlando on the ropes. The Stingrays outshot the Solar Bears 11-6 in the period but the visitors held tough, especially Reichard who finished with 32 saves.
Thanks to Murovich’s score, Reichard ran his personal win streak to a Solar Bears ECHL franchise record eight games. It puts him five wins away from the ECHL record of 13 straight wins by Roanoke’s Daniel Berthiaume set during the 1994-1995 season.
Orlando now comes home for a three-game set with the Kalamazoo Wings beginning on Friday.
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