Orlando, FL – With the departure of Anthony Noreen, the Orlando Solar Bears looked to returning coach, Drake Berehowsky, to ignite the team on home ice. Berehowsky’s first game back was a significant one as the Bears hosted their first ever school day game against the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
Berehowsky entered Orlando with one key mission – to get the team winning on home ice. Thursday’s game accomplished just that with the Solar Bears showing dominance through the game.
Orlando’s first goal would come at just 1:42 of the opening frame with Joe Perry finding the back of the net off a feed from Brett Findlay behind the net. Perry has been the team’s most productive scorer (five goals), and he has been rewarded for muscling himself to the front of the crease. The Solar Bears would strike again in the period to take a 2-0 lead. Catching the Rabbits napping on a power play, Patrick Watling led a 2-on-1 rush and fed Cason Hohmann perfectly to get the puck by Greenville’s Jeff Malcolm.
Greenville would strike 9:44 into the first as Justin DaSilva teed the puck off the left point and blasted it past Ryan Massa to make it 2-1. However, Orlando would get another tally in the first as Eric Faille would power his way past Greenville’s Spiro Goulakos to sneak in a shot and make it 3-1 Orlando.
If Orlando had one mental breakdown, it occurred at the close of the second period, and Greenville made the Solar Bears pay… twice. Brett Cameron would score at 18:32 on a breakaway during a power play, and with just seconds left, Matt Prapavessis would score at 19:53 to make threes wild – a score of 3-3 going into the third.
Being short-handed hurt the Solar Bears in the final frame. The Swamp Rabbits struck at 6:43 as Ahti Oksanen would make it 4-3 Greenville on a powerplay. However, Orlando would equalize matters when Johnny McInnis powered in a rebound that came off a long-range shot by Hohmann. Ben Danford would then score the game-winner (and his first goal as a Solar Bear) after blocking a shot and leading a two-on-one rush with Denver Manderson. Another tally by McInnis and an empty net strike by Manderson would make it a comfortable 7-4 victory.
Berehowsky, satisfied with the win on Thursday, hopes to continue the win streak on home with the upcoming series against the Missouri Mavericks on Monday and Tuesday.
The Mavericks (5-7-0-1, 7th in the Mountain Division) come off a 4-3 thriller win over the Florida Everblades in a shootout. The Everblades are at the summit of the ECHL standings and have yet to lose a game in regulation, so Missouri’s win is especially impressive and should be a wake-up call for the Solar Bears.
Despite the Maverick’s struggles, this is a team that should not be underestimated as they have proven that they can defeat tough opponents, and they will be entering the Amway Center with hunger for another road win. Meanwhile, Berehowsky will face his first true test to see if he can fire up his squad. The Solar Bears are often lethargic after time to relax at home and the early weekday games will require the new-old coach to prove that he can rouse his Bears for battle.
On a side note, the Solar Bears have acquired Kelly Cup Champion, Chris Crane, from the Allen Americans in a trade which involved Bryan Moore and Rylan Schwartz. Crane was with the Americans during their first ever ECHL championship durring the 2014-15 season and also played for them in their second championship season in 2015-16.
One final odd postscript: On Saturday evening, a very different Mavericks team – the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks – fell to another Orlando team – the Magic – in the Amway Center. The Solar Bears hope that the Magic have left some of their winning mojo floating in the building for the upcoming series against Missouri.