Rays Streak Past Solar Bears In 6-2 Rout
ORLANDO, Fla. – The South Carolina Stingrays (33-24-10-3) got out in front with a 3-goal first period and added to their offensive total in both the second and third frames on their way to a 6-2 victory over the Orlando Solar Bears (36-27-6-1) on Thursday night at the Amway Center.
The win put South Carolina past Orlando in the Eastern Conference standings with a points percentage of .572, and the Stingrays continue to control their own destiny in the chase for the final spot in the 2021 Kelly Cup Playoffs. South Carolina can clinch a spot in the postseason win a win in their final regular season game Saturday night against Jacksonville or a regulation loss by Orlando in either of their two remaining games.
Captain Andrew Cherniwchan led the way with three points for SC, scoring a goal and adding two assists, while forwards Cole Ully and Justin Florek both scored twice in the win. Goaltender Hunter Shepard made 23 saves to earn his fifth consecutive victory for the Rays.
South Carolina put a total of 47 shots on goal in the game, out-shooting Orlando by 22 chances with double-digit totals in each period (16, 17, 14) and a final margin of 47-25.
The Solar Bears struck first to take a 1-0 lead at 12:29 of the opening frame when Aaron Luchuk redirected a shot past Hunter Shepard to put the home team ahead.
But the Stingrays responded quickly and didn’t let up, scoring three times in a span of 2:36 beginning just 30 seconds after Luchuk’s tally. First, forward Brett Supinski converted on a backhand wraparound attempt from behind the net that snuck past goaltender Clint Windsor to even the game at 1-1. The lone assist on the tying goal went to forward Caleb Herbert, his 25th helper of the season.
Then just 1:03 later, Florek put the Rays on top 2-1 with his first of the game by beating Windsor in a similar spot. Cherniwchan secured the first assist on the play, while defender Blake Hillman was credited with the second assist on the goal that was scored at 14:02.
Finally, it was Ully that finished off the offensive barrage, netting his first of the night 33 seconds after Florek’s strike off a pass from Cherniwchan in the slot to make it 3-1 SC at 14:35.
The Stingrays added to their advantage while on the power play in the middle period when Ully sniped his 24th goal of the season to extend the lead to 4-1 at 13:47 from defender Tyler Nanne and forward Max Novak.
It was more of the same in the third for South Carolina, scoring twice more and forcing the Solar Bears to make a change in goal. After Florek scored his second of the game and 18th of the season unassisted at 2:49 to make it 5-1, Orlando pulled Windsor in favor of backup netminder Michael Lackey.
Cherniwchan put the Rays on top 6-1 with less than four minutes to go in the game at 16:05 with an unassisted strike on Lackey for his 21st goal of the year.
Anthony Repaci closed out the scoring for Orlando with a goal 32 seconds after Cherniwchan’s tally at 16:37.
South Carolina finished 1-for-2 on the power play and denied the Solar Bears twice on the man-advantage, ending at 2-for-2 on the penalty kill. Windsor finished the night with 32 saves in 42:49 of action and took the loss, while Lackey stopped nine shots in 17:11.
The Stingrays return home for their final regular season contest Saturday against the Jacksonville Icemen on Fan Appreciation Night at the North Charleston Coliseum at 6:05 p.m. All single-game tickets are $10 for the final Rays regular season home game of the year.