ORLANDO, Fla. – Jean Dupuy scored at the 17:12 mark of the first overtime to lift the Orlando Solar Bears (4-0) to its first-ever Kelly Cup Playoffs series victory as they defeated the South Carolina Stingrays (0-4) by a 2-1 score on Saturday night at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center.
The Solar Bears will face the Florida Everblades in the South Division Finals. The Everblades will hold home-ice advantage in the series, as Florida finished the 2017-18 regular season as the Brabham Cup champions for finishing first overall in points.
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The first period was a scoreless affair for both clubs, with the Stingrays outshooting Orlando by a 12-7 margin. However, the Solar Bears set the pace with a physical tone, delivering several punishing hits on the South Carolina roster.
Sam Jardine sent the crowd into a frenzy in the second period with a power-play goal at 11:27 to give Orlando a 1-0 lead; Max Novak and Chris Crane provided the assists.
Cal Heeter, meanwhile, continued to deny a barrage of Stingrays chances, including a shorthanded breakaway for Nick Roberto shortly after Jardine had put Orlando ahead, and the goalie also made a sprawling stop near the end of the frame to deny Jake Kamrass.
The Stingrays tied the score at 1-1 at 4:35 of the third period when Patrick Megannety’s shorthanded shot on the rush deflected off of the equipment of Robbie Baillargeon past Heeter.
Despite some increased pressure from the Solar Bears in the final minutes of regulation, the third period would end with a 1-1 score, forcing overtime for the second consecutive match in the series.
Dupuy eventually netted the series-clinching goal when he made his way into the slot from behind the South Carolina net and snapped the puck past the blocker of Milner to lift Orlando to victory.
Heeter picked up the win with 41 stops on 42 shots against, while finishing the series with a stingy 0.66 goals-against average and a .980 save percentage; Milner took the loss for South Carolina with 21 saves on 23 shots against.
- Orlando’s sweep of South Carolina marked the first best-of-seven series sweep in the combined franchise histories of the ECHL and IHL Orlando Solar Bears.
- The series marked a tight defensive battle from both teams – the 10 combined goals in the series is the second-fewest scored in a four-game series in ECHL postseason history.
- Orlando improved to a lifetime of 2-1 in overtime on home ice in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.
- The Solar Bears went 1-for-8 on the man advantage and a perfect 4-for-4 on the penalty kill; Orlando completed the series without surrendering a power-play goal to the Stingrays on 18 total shorthanded chances.
- Dupuy and Baillargeon led the Solar Bears with four shots on goal.
THREE STARS1) Cal Heeter – ORL2) Jean Dupuy – ORL3) Sam Jardine – ORL
SECOND ROUND SCHEDULE: The Solar Bears have advanced to the South Division Finals of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs, presented by Coors Light, and will play the Florida Everblades in the second round of the postseason. Orlando will host Games 3, 4 and 5 (if necessary) at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center. The home schedule for the South Division Finals is as follows:
- Game 3 – Thursday, May 3 at 7 p.m.
- Game 4 – Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m.
- Game 5 – Sunday, May 6 at 1:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Tickets for the second round of the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs will go on sale on Monday, April 23, along with an announcement of the full schedule for the South Division Finals.
About the Orlando Solar Bears:
The Orlando Solar Bears are in their sixth season of operation in the ECHL, the premier “AA” hockey league in North America, and are the proud affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. The Solar Bears are owned and operated by the Orlando Magic and the DeVos Family, and play at the ARS.com Rink at Amway Center, the 2012 Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal Sports Facility of the Year.
Officially licensed Orlando Solar Bears replica team jerseys, apparel, and headwear can be purchased at orlandosolarbearshockey.com/shop.