O’Neil’s heroics give Rays third straight overtime victory
NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – Kevin O’Neil’s overtime snipe carried the South Carolina Stingrays (24-36-6-0) over the Orlando Solar Bears (31-27-5-1) by a final score of 4-3 at the North Charleston Coliseum on Friday evening.
Quickly into the opening stanza, the Solar Bears found themselves on top 1-0 thanks to Ross Olsson’s 20th tuck of the year. Hunter Shepard stopped the initial deflection from Olsson, but the persistence beat Shepard on the rebound only 36 seconds after opening puck drop.
The Stingrays didn’t let it last long as Jonny Evans evened the score at one goal apiece before the five minute mark of the first period. Derek Gentile collected a loose puck and circled the back of the net, feeding Evans on the left circle for the tap in over Alexei Melnichuk.
O’Neil gave the Stingrays their first lead of the contest four and a half minutes into the second period on his third tally of the season. Connor Moore halted a clearing attempt from Orlando and fed O’Neil in the slot for the Stingrays power play tally and 2-1 advantage.
South Carolina doubled their lead four minutes later as Gentile added a goal of his own in the contest. Gentile split two Orlando defenders and flipped a rebound over the pad of Melnichuk for the 3-0 lead midway through the middle frame.
Just over the halfway point in the second period, Aaron Luchuk found the back of the net for Orlando, cutting the deficit to one. Michael Brodzinski took a shot off a faceoff win and Luchuk fired the rebound quickly past a diving Shepard for his 15th goal of the year.
Luke McInnis finished the comeback for the Solar Bears, sending his seventh of the season past the blocker of Shepard to tie the game at three goals apiece early in the third period. McInnis poked the puck away from the South Carolina defense led an odd-man rush, ripping a shot from the right circle for the tie contest eight minutes into the final period to force overtime.
O’Neil was at it again in overtime, playing hero for the Stingrays with his first game-winning goal of his career. Newcomer Seamus Donohue started a rush into Orlando’s zone, saucing the puck to O’Neil from the left circle where the UConn product sniped the puck to the far corner, beating Melnichuk for the final goal of the evening.
The Stingrays head to Orlando, Florida tomorrow, April 2, for the final time this season against the Orlando Solar Bears.
Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. at the Amway Center.
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