ORLANDO, Fla. – With their backs to the wall and no room for excuses, the Orlando Solar Bears made their stand against the Florida Everblades on May the Fourth. Having lost the first three games of the South Division Finals, the team entered the game on Star Wars Day feeling a bit like members of the rebel alliance: They knew they needed to dig deep and to strike a blow against the Empire.
The opening two minutes of the game were spent with Orlando on its heels, but the Solar Bears finally fired up its engines with Chris LeBlanc scoring five minutes into the frame. Martins Dzierkals and Hunter Fejes were credited with assists. Before the evening was out, Fejes would figure into two more scores for the Solar Bears, and Dzierkals would tally the game-winning goal.
It was a physical and dramatic evening. The lead would switch hands three times, and the sin bin was active with the two teams collectively amassing 80 penalty minutes spread among 25 infractions. The two teams were chippy even to the closing seconds, but when the dust had settled, the Solar Bears found themselves with a 5-3 victory and an opportunity to battle on.
To complete the scoring for the Solar Bears, Joe Perry gained an unassisted goal in the second period when he stole the puck from Mitchell Heard at the blue line, and Perry would also cap the scoring with an empty netter at the close of the game. Max Novak was the other Solar Bear scoring a goal, this one on a power play during the second period.
The Everblades kept things close. Matt Berry found the net in the closing minutes of the opening period to tie things up heading into the first intermission. And David Dziurzynski put the Everblades ahead seven minutes into the second period with a power play tally. But three unanswered goals beginning with Perry’s unassisted breakaway spelled the doom for the Everblades.
The Post-Game Assessment
At this point in the series, the Solar Bears are aware that it’s either win or go home. When questioned as to what he expects out of the team on Sunday, Orlando head coach Drake Berehowsky commented,
“Well, it’s going to be physical; it’s been physical the whole series. Even during the regular season, we got physical with these guys, so, you know, they have a great team, and we have to come ready to play again.”
When questions as to whether or not the end of last night’s playoff match brought him flashbacks of the game 4 playoff match of last season, Perry commented,
“I’m not gonna lie. I was a little bit. It’s good to see us sticking up for each other, though, and not letting them take advantage of us. You know, you’ve got to kind of expect that against these guys, so, I’m pretty happy about the way we handled them.”
In his assessment of of the match, Dzierkals said,
“There were a lot of penalties today. I think we should reduce that. We made a lot of bad penalties, and luckily our penalty kill was pretty great today. They did a good job, and same thing with our power play. The special teams did good today. It’s just that we can’t make that many penalties, and that’s what we’re going to take [away] for the next games.”
With series now 3-1 in favor of the Everblades, the teams return to the Amway Center on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. EST. If the Solar Bears win that contest, the South Division Finals will move back to Estero with a game six tilt scheduled for Tuesday, May 8, at 7:30 p.m. EST.
Neither Florida’s Brett Bulmer nor Orlando’s Sean Zimmerman will be on the ice in the Sunday matchup. Both were suspended for a game due to an altercation that occurred at the close of Friday’s tilt.