NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – Momentum can be an elusive thing. Just when you think you have it in hand, it can escape your grasp allowing you to fall flat. The Orlando Solar Bears thought they had built momentum after a pair of weekend wins but Tuesday night, it got away from them.
The South Carolina Stingrays scored three unanswered goals in the final twenty-one minutes of regulation to defeat the Solar Bears 4-2 at the North Charleston Coliseum. The victory in front of an announced crowd of 1,551 kept the Stingrays (4-0-0-1) undefeated in regulation time and at the same time halted Orlando’s modest two game winning streak.
Prior to the game, Orlando head coach Vince Williams characterized the contest as a matchup of two squads who mirrored each other in style of play. He also figured that the host Stingrays would come out firing away at Solar Bears netminder John Curry. He was right about the shot barrage as South Carolina recorded 15 shots on net in the first fifteen minutes of the opening period.
South Carolina finally dented Curry’s armor at the 16:08 mark of the first when Chris Langkow was able to deflect the puck to the middle of the ice where Chad Painchaud grabbed it and fired it home. Orlando (2-3-0-0) responded just over a minute later when Bryce Aneloski, inserted into the lineup replacing the injured Paul Baier, read the play and was in the right spot to convert the rebound of a CJ Severyn shot into his first regular season goal. Severyn’s helper gave him at least a point in four consecutive games.
The dueling goalies and defenses took control of things in the second period, turning the game into a playoff-like battle. Curry and Stingrays starter Jeff Jakaitis fended off everything thrown at them in the first twelve minutes of the stanza.
Orlando took its only lead of the night at the thirteen minute mark thanks to some great hand-eye coordination on the part of Zach Harrison. During a flurry of action in front of Jakaitis, the puck took a bounce into the air. Harrison measured it up and swung at the disc, knocking it home with the blade of his stick. For Harrison it was his third goal of the season – his second in two games – and gave him a four game point scoring streak.
Late in the period, Solar Bear forward Jacob Lagace was called for boarding, giving South Carolina the first power play of the game. Orlando’s penalty killing units, which came into the game a perfect 23-for-23, held the Stingrays at bay until the final ten seconds of the man advantage. Lindsay Sparks broke the visitors’ streak when he was able to trickle a shot across the goal line with 48 seconds left in the stanza to tie the score.
With the momentum of the tying goal on their side, the Stingrays used it to go back in front early in the third. Defenseman Scooter Vaughn sent a backhand pass across the slot area and founf Scott Campbell open on the other side. Campbell promptly deposited the puck behind Curry for his fifth goal of the season and more importantly a lead that South Carolina would not relinquish.
Orlando had a golden opportunity to tie the contest a short time later when Stingray defenseman Luka Vidmar was sent off for interference. The South Carolina penalty killers however stepped up and completely shut down the Solar Bears power play.
With Jakaitis (22 saves) stopping every Orlando shot, the South Carolina offense looked for a score to put the game away. It came when a shot toward the net deflected a couple of times before finally hitting the skate of Patrick Gaul and going in.
Williams pulled Curry (24 saves) with just under two minutes left in regulation but the Stingrays held the Solar Bears off to complete the victory.
Orlando will look to get back into the win column Wednesday night when it visits the Gwinnett Gladiators. The Solar Bears swept the Gladiators over the weekend but there was plenty of bad blood that could spill over to Wednesday’s tilt. Game time at the Arena at Gwinnett Center is set for 7:05 pm.
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