The South Carolina Stingrays might be the deepest team in the ECHL this season.
The Orlando Solar Bears found that out the hard way Tuesday night.
Scott Campbell had a goal and an assist and Jeff Jakaitis made 22 saves to lead South Carolina past Orlando, 4-2, before a crowd of 1,551 at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Stingrays, who are unbeaten on the season, improved to 4-0-1 (9 points) and trail Florida by a single point for first place in the South Division. The Solar Bears fell to 2-3-0 (4 points).
South Carolina head coach Spencer Carbery rolled all three of his forward lines in hopes of wearing down the visiting Solar Bears. In the third period, South Carolina’s depth finally took its toll as the Stingrays scored twice in the final 20 minutes.
The Stingrays got off to a quick start, outshooting the Solar Bears, 17-7, during the first period and holding a 12-2 advantage after eight minutes, but had little to show for their dominance.
“That was probably the best period we’ve played all season,” Carbery said. “We came out flying, I think we out-chanced them eight-to-two, but you look up at the scoreboard and we don’t have a goal.”
Chad Painchaud finally broke through with 3:52 left to go in the opening period, but the Solar Bears answered 90 seconds later on Bryce Aneloski’s goal with 2:20 left before the first intermission.
“That’s probably a period where we should have scored two or three goals,” Carbery said. “It was a little frustrating not to be leading going into the locker room.”
Zach Harrison’s goal gave the Solar Bears a brief 2-1 advantage with seven minutes left in the second period.
The Stingrays responded with Lindsay Sparks’ first professional goal with 49 seconds left in the second period. It was the first power play goal the Solar Bears had given up all season. Orlando was 23 of 23 on the penalty kill coming into the game.
“Lindsay hadn’t played a game so far this season, and for him to come in and get a goal was huge,” Jakaitis said. “That’s why we’re getting the results we’re getting. Guys who are not playing much are chipping in when they get their chance.”
After Campbell put Stingrays up 3-2 with a one-timer off of a beautiful pass from Scooter Vaughan, Jakaitis came up with the save of the game.
Orlando came down on an odd man rush with C.J. Severyn and Scott Tanski. Severyn made a pass to a wide-open Tanski on the back post for what appeared to be a sure goal. But Jakaitis slid across his crease and made a pad save to stop the threat.
“I didn’t make a good read on the play,” Jakaitis said. “I came out to challenge (Severyn) and our defenseman did a good job of forcing him wide. I was a little late getting over there and just got lucky to get a piece of the puck.”
Stingrays forward Patrick Gaul added the final goal of the night with 5:47 left in the final period.
Orlando 1 1 0—2
Stingrays 1 1 2—4
First Period: 1. SC, Painchaud 3 (Langkow, Downing), 16:08. 2. Orlando, Aneloski 1 (Severyn, Ullrich), 17:40. Penalties: No penalties.
Second Period: 3. O, Harrison 3 (Severyn, Ullrich), 13:00. 4.SC, Sparks 1 (Boyd, Campbell), 19:11 (PP). Penalties: Lagace, O (boarding), 17:18.
Third Period: 5. SC, Campbell 5 (Vaughan, Gongalsky), 2:55. 6. SC, Gaul 1 (Hagel, Boyd), 14:13. Penalties: Vidmar, SC (interference), 3:42.
Shots on Goal: Stingrays 17-4-7-28; Orlando: 7-8-9-24. Penalties: Stingrays 1-2; Orlando 1-2. Power play: Stingrays 1 for 1; Orlando 0 for 1. Goalies: Stingrays – Jeff Jakaitis (4-0-1) 24 shots, 22 saves. Orlando – John Curry (1-1-0) 28 shots, 24 saves. Att: 1,551.