The job of any visiting team in a long playoff series is to win at least one road game.
After South Carolina defeated Orlando 2-0 in Game 1 Wednesday night, the Stingrays were looking to get a little greedy Friday night.
Unfortunately, the Solar Bears scored three times in the second period as Mitch Hults had two goals and Orlando held off a furious South Carolina rally to beat the Stingrays 3-2 in Game 2 of the ECHL Southern Division Kelly Cup semifinals Friday night before a crowd of 7,324 at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
The best-of-7 series is tied at 1 with the next three games taking place at the North Charleston Coliseum beginning Wednesday night.
“We got the split down here in Orlando and we shifted the home-ice advantage to our favor,” said Stingrays coach Spiros Anastas. “We would have liked to have won both games, but we’ve got the next three games on our home ice, and we like our chances in front our fans. In a long series, you can’t get too high or get too low. Obviously, we feel little bit of a sting after a loss, but we’ve got to get back on the bus, reset and focus on Game 3 in our own building.”
A lackluster second period doomed the Stingrays. After a scoreless first period, the Solar Bears scored three times led by Hults, who had two goals and one from Tayler Thompson.
“For sure, the second period was the difference in the game,” Anastas said. “But to be honest, the first 20 minutes were not that great either. It wasn’t the same 20 minutes we had in Game 1 against them just a couple of nights ago. We were not as physically engaged, we were not as fast to the puck and we were drifting around the ice way too much and Orlando is a very good offensive team and made us pay for that.”
The Stingrays pushed back in the third period and made a game of it after getting goals from Grant Besse and Tad Kozun to make it a one-goal game 3-2 with 7:15 left in regulation.
“In a long series, everything counts,” Anastas said. “We could be down 10-0, but everything we do from that moment on counts. It might not pay dividends on the next shift or in that game, but down the road everything counts, and that was the message in the locker room during the second intermission. We’ve got to send a message that we’re not going away, and we wanted to give ourselves the best opportunity to get back into the game and hopefully win it. We have to have that mentality.”
The Stingrays had a couple of late chances to tie the game, one coming on a power play, but Orlando goalie Connor Ingram made 25 saves in the victory. South Carolina goalie Parker Milner stopped 33 shots.
Stingrays forward Mason Mitchell was called for a major and a match penalty for a slew foot on Orlando’s Akim Alu in the second period. Alu returned to the ice for the Solar Bears power play just minutes later, but Mitchell’s status for Game 3 remains in doubt.
South Carolina veteran forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas returned to the ice after missing Game 1 with a broken nose. Defenseman Kevin McKernan missed his second straight game.
The series will shift to the North Charleston Coliseum for the next three games. Game 3 will be Wednesday night beginning at 7 p.m.