ORLANDO, FL - Orlando Solar Bears goaltender Cal Heeter again earned himself the first star of the night after stopping 49 shots in Game 3 to give his team a 2-1 overtime win over the South Carolina Stingrays in Game 3 of the South Division Semifinals Thursday at the Amway Center. The Solar Bears now lead the best-of-seven series three games to none and have pushed the Stingrays to the brink of elimination.
Hunter Fejes scored the game-winner for Orlando at 17:29 of overtime, converting on an end-to-end rush for his second strike of the series while the Solar Bears were shorthanded.
Forward Mason Mitchell scored for the second straight game and led all skaters with seven shots on net in a losing effort for South Carolina, while goaltender Parker Milner stopped 29 shots in between the pipes.
Despite coming up short in all three games, Milner has allowed just four total goals in 195 minutes this postseason for a goals-against average of 1.53 and a save percentage at 0.931, both of which are better than the numbers he had during the regular season when he was named the league's Goaltender of the Year.
South Carolina played close to a perfect period in the first, out-shooting Orlando 21-3 and not allowing anything near Parker Milner's net until there were less than three minutes remaining in the opening frame. However, Heeter stopped every puck that came his way on the other end of the ice and the teams were scoreless at the first intermission.
Mitchell put the Stingrays in front for the first time all series when he buried a rebound that was loose to the right of Heeter for his second goal of the postseason at 7:47 of the second. Nick Roberto and J.C. Brassard were given assists on the tally, the first professional playoff points for both rookie skaters.
But Joe Perry evened the game at 1-1 with his first goal of the playoffs for the Solar Bears at 16:46 from defenseman Nolan Valleau and forward J.J. Piccinich.
Neither team was able to score during an evenly played third period in which Orlando outshot SC 11-9 and the two teams headed to overtime for the first time all series. The Rays were able to kill three penalties in the third frame and finished 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in the contest.
South Carolina put 11 shots on net in the extra session before Fejes' winner but came up empty on their two man-advantage opportunities in overtime. The Stingrays were 0-for-5 on the power play in Game 3.
Now with their backs against the wall, the Rays must win Game 4 on Saturday night to extend their season. Orlando will host the contest at the Amway Center with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.