NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – Playoff hockey came to the North Charleston Coliseum for the 24th time in the Stingrays’ 25-year history Thursday night. The action was tough and hard fought but the Stingrays fell 2-0 to the Orlando Solar Bears in game one of the South Division Semifinals.
The first period was a very physical contest as both teams tried to set the tempo of play and establish on ice dominance. The Stingrays had the Solar Bears on their heels for the final 15 minutes of the period but repeatedly came up short. The Stingrays outshot the Solar Bears in the opening frame 12-5. The best chance for the Stingrays came on a shorthanded play near the 13 minute mark when Kelly Zajac couldn’t settle a bouncing cross ice pass in front of a wide open net.
The second period saw both teams settle into the game flow as the Stingrays continued to dominate play. Special teams tend to define playoff series and the Solar Bears capitalized on a miscue by the Stingrays. Hunter Fejes scored shorthanded after Stingrays forward Jonathan Charbonneau was stripped on his own blue line. Parker Milner was screened on the play and was beat high glove side. The Stingrays made a hard push for the rest of the period outshooting Orlando 17-8 overall in the second period. However, the Stingrays came up empty on five power play opportunities during the period.
The Orlando Solar Bears shut down the Stingrays chances in the third period. The Solar Bears were able to stymie the Stingrays and keep them out of their offensive zone for the majority of the period. The Stingrays were shorthanded two times in the third with no power play opportunities. The teams were even on shots with the Solar Bears getting an empty net goal by J.J. Piccinich with under a minute to play.
Orlando goalie Cal Heeter pitched a 36 save shut out while Parker Milner stopped 18 of 19 shots he faced. The Stingrays were perfect on the penalty kill, killing all four of Orlando’s chances. The Stingrays have struggled on the power play for most of the year. Tonight was no different as they struggled to gain and maintain the offensive zone. The Orlando fore-checkers seemed to confuse the power play units and kept the Stingrays pinned deep in their own zone multiple times. The Stingrays went 0-for-6 on the power play and gave up the shorthanded game winner.
Action resumes at the North Charleston Coliseum on Saturday night for Game 2 of the South Division Semifinals.