NORTH CHARLESTON, SC - Brett Bulmer ended a back-and-forth contest with the winning goal for the Florida Everblades (50-13-2-4) in the final minute of overtime to defeat the South Carolina Stingrays (45-16-7-1) by a score of 4-3 on Tuesday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Rays scored all three of their tallies in the game on the power play and all came from rookies in Mason Mitchell, Jake Kamrass and Jonathan Charbonneau. Forward Kelly Zajac had two assists in the contest and has now posted 53 points for South Carolina in 58 games this season.
Although South Carolina gained a point in the standings in the loss, the Rays are now locked in second place and will face the Orlando Solar Bears in the opening round of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs beginning with Game 1 on April 12 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Everblades struck first in the contest and took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Michael Kirkpatrick at 11:12 of the opening period.
South Carolina responded less than three minutes later when Mitchell scored in his first home game with the Rays at 14:06 on a rebound in front after an initial shot by Dylan Margonari during a man-advantage. Forward Trevor Olson was credited with the second assist on the play, his first professional point in his fifth game with SC.
But Florida re-took the lead 2-1 before the end of the first on John McCarron's 28th goal of the year at 16:55.
SC got even and then took the lead with two power play goals in the middle period from Kamrass and Charbonneau. Kamrass also scored on a rebound in front after an initial shot by team captain Joe Devin at 9:14, with a second assist provided by Zajac.
Charbonneau got his fourth of the season, all coming on the man-advantage, after taking a pass from defenseman J.C. Brassard and blasting a one-timer by Florida goaltender Martin Ouellette to give the Rays the lead at 3-2. The goal, which was scored at 17:57 of the second period also had a second assist by Zajac.
Kyle Neuber evened the game at 4:57 of the third period, scoring on a rebound in front of the Stingrays net to tie things at 3-3.
The two teams remained deadlocked for the rest of regulation and into the final minute of overtime before Bulmer converted on a breakaway for the game-winner. The tally came after Brassard had an open chance in front of Ouellette that the goaltender turned aside to begin a rush for Bulmer, eventually resulted in the deciding goal.
Ouellette earned the victory for the Everblades by stopping 21 shots, while Jeff Jakaitis suffered the loss for the Stingrays after making 28 saves.
SC was 3-for-7 on the man-advantage and held Florida off the board at 0-for-3 on the power play.
The Stingrays will make their final road trip of the regular season later this week when they visit the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for two contests on Thursday and Friday night at 7 p.m. South Carolina hosts Orlando for the team's final home game and Fan-Tastic Fan-Ale on Saturday night at the North Charleston Coliseum at 7:05 p.m.