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When your back is against the wall, you need your best players to rise above. That is exactly what happened for the Orlando Solar Bears in Game 3 of their East Division Semifinal series against the Florida Everblades. Looking back to our series preview, the biggest ace in the hole for Orlando was netminder Garret Sparks, who played well in the first two games of this series, but mistakes in front of him put him in bad situations leading to nine goals allowed, ultimately putting him on the bench in Game 2.
Orlando Coach Vince Williams decided to stick with Sparks for Game 3, and that decision could ultimately swing the momentum in the series back to his squad. Sparks stood on his head, making 48 saves, leading his team to a decisive 5-2 win in Game 3. Despite being outshot immensely (50-19) by the Florida Everblades, the Solar Bears made good on their limited attempts with goals from Johnny McInnis (2), Eric Baier, Ben Johnson, and Brady Vail. The penalty kill also rose to the occasion for Orlando, successfully thwarting all seven chances for Florida with the man-advantage.
Now the questionable goaltending tables have turned to Florida, as Allen York, who was fantastic in Games 1 & 2, allowed four goals on only 18 shots faced. Just as Williams stuck with Sparks, Florida Coach Greg Poss is fully expected to do the same. However, with the next two games in Orlando, and Sparks finding his groove on familiar ice, the Solar Bears are right back in this series, and poised to give the heavily-favored Everblades all that they can handle.
Game 4 is Thursday night in Orlando, and while everyone needs a day off during this stage of the season, I would imagine that the Solar Bears are ready to get back in front of their home crowd as quickly as possible.