Paul Geiger’s goal with 1:25 to play in the third period broke a deadlock and gave the South Carolina Stingrays (48-16-7-1) a franchise record 48 wins with a 2-1 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears (33-30-6-3) in a playoff preview to close the 2017-18 regular season on Saturday night at the North Charleston Coliseum.
Jonathan Charbonneau also scored in the first period for South Carolina, while goaltender Jeff Jakaitis saved 28 Orlando shots to pick up his 18th win of the season. Jakaitis finishes the campaign with a 2.13 goals against average that is third-best in the ECHL along with a 0.922 save percentage.
Charbonneau opened the scoring with his fifth tally of the season at 10:14 of the first period on a quick passing play in front of the net with assists from linemates Jake Kamrass and Dylan Margonari.
The Solar Bears evened the score in the final minute of the second at 19:16 when Max Novak slid a puck by Jakaitis while on a power play to tie the game at 1-1.
With the game still even late in the third, Patrick Gaul won an offensive zone face-off and Nick Roberto found Geiger who was open on the right circle. The defender made a move to his forehand and wristed a shot through traffic and by Orlando goaltender Cal Heeter for the deciding strike at 18:35.
The 12th goal of the year for the second-year skater gave the Rays the edge they needed and the Solar Bears ran out of time trying to find an equalizer in the final minute of play.
Heeter suffered the loss for Orlando despite making 34 saves while the Stingrays outshot the Solar Bears 36-29 on the night.
Orlando finished 1-for-6 on the man-advantage in the game with South Carolina called for a total of 28 penalty minutes on 10 infractions. The Stingrays were held off the board on the power play, going 0-for-4.
The two teams will meet up to open the postseason in the first round of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs with Game 1 on Thursday night at 7:05 p.m. at the North Charleston Coliseum.
-per South Carolina Stingrays